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A Book. 
pichei. up 

by J 









Copyrighted by Harris & Bluing. 


Chairman and Chief Engineer of the Isthmian Canal Commission. 





' -' ' W 





Wefo gorfe 


All rights reserved 


, ,1911, 1914, 

Se*upandelectrotyi|sd* fublishedOctohcA''9iI- Reprinted 
Aru^ry, 1912. *, 

JJJ^w^ijsvised and enlarged edition, Septenfbie/ t 1914. 

J. 8. Gushing Co. Berwick <fe Smith Co. 
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 

To my friend, 



appeared as articles in The Outlook; Chapter II in Harper's 
Weekly; Chapter VIII in Success Magazine. Chapter 
XXXIV is a compilation of material used in articles for 
Success and The Coming Nation. They are reprinted here 
through the courtesy of the original publishers. 

The works of Bancroft, Fiske, Irving, Prescott and 
Winsor the principal authorities on the epoch of discovery 
and colonization have been freely used. 

Other authors have been quoted acknowledgment is 
made in the text and many more have been consulted. 
The staff of the American History Department of the New 
York Public Library have been of great assistance. 

While on the Isthmus I have received courtesies too nu- 
merous to mention from the canal men. I am especially 
indebted to Col. George W. Goethals, the Chairman and 
Chief Engineer, and to Mr. Joseph Bucklin Bishop, the 
Secretary of the Isthmian Canal Commission. The chapter 
on health conditions could not have been written except 
for the kind assistance of Mr. Jennings, the Entomologist 
of the Sanitary Department. 

In a more personal way I am deeply in the debt of my 
friend, John 0. Collins, for suggestions and services with- 
out end. 

The exact information contained in this volume is due 
to those I have mentioned. The mistakes are my own. 


July, 1911. 



THE body of the book has been carefully revised, new 
illustrations gathered and two chapters added. 

My friend, John O. Collins, has helped me with many 
corrections of the first edition and suggestions for this. 
And I am especially indebted to my hosts of "The 
Monastery," Mr. F. H. Cooke, U.S.N., and Mr. W. H. 
May, whose kind hospitality made my recent visit to the 

Isthmus most pleasant. 












VIII. THE THIRST FOR GOLD . . . . . . .108 

























XXIX. BEGINNING WORK ........ 475 

XXX. THE Boss OP THE JOB ....... 497 



XXXIII. THE BIG JOBS IN 1911 ....... 540 

XXXV. FINISHING THE JOB ..... .. . .579 

XXXVI. THE PROFIT . ........ 588 


George Washington Goethals Frontispiece 


The Keepers of the Peace in Barbados 20 

A Bullock Cart in Martinique 20 

A Cargo of Black Ivory at the Colon Dock 42 

The View from the Tivoli 60 

Culebra Cut in 1909 60 

Map of the Republic 66 

Water Front, Panama City 80 

The Flat Arch of the Church of St. Dominic . . . .100 

The Cathedral of Panama 100 

Banana Market at Gatun, on the Chagres 110 

Map of Indias 132 

Chepigana 150 

El Real de Sta. Maria 150 

Indian Cayukas on the Chucunaque River 170 

Village of San Miguel, Pearl Islands 180 

The Steamer Veraguas 200 

The Deserted Rancho 200 

A Cholo Indian Village . . . . . . . .220 

Hitting the Trail . . .270 

Cocoanut Palms 270 

Puerto Bello the Grave of Sir Francis Drake . . . .290 
Native Village on the Site of the Old Town of San Lorenzo . 300 

Old French Equipment 340 

Modern American Equipment 340 

John Findley Wallace, First Chief Engineer . . . .360 

John F. Stevens, Second Chief Engineer 360 

Culebra Cut in 1904, December, looking North . . . .380 

Colonel Goethals' Home 400 

Part of the Labor Problem 400 




Anopheline Mosquito 440 

Isthmus with Completed Canal 460 

Aricon Hospital 480 

The Middle Lock at Gatun, looking South, April 1, 1911 . . 500 

Cut at Empire, in 1911 516 

A Steam Shovel 530 

Culebra Cut, Culebra, looking South from the West Bank and 

showing the Completion of the Bottom Pioneer Cut . . 550 
Gamboa Dyke, separating Chagres River and Gatun Lake on the 

Left, from the mouth of the Culebra Cut .... 566 

The Blowing up of Gamboa Dyke 570 

Blowing up Gamboa Dyke. View from the West Bank, showing 

the Water rushing through the Opening .... 576 
Suction Dredges operating on the North and South Sides of the 

Cucaracha Slide, Culebra Cut, Culebra .... 580 
Cross-Section of Culebra Cut, showing Increased Excavation due 

to " Slides " 584 

Culebra Cut, Empire, looking South from the West Bank near 

Cunette 590 

Gatun Locks, looking North from the Light House on the West 

Wall. Atlantic Entrance in the Distance . , 592 





THE tropics should be visited by way of the sea. You 
come into them gently, almost imperceptibly. You are 
more impressed by the intensifying blueness of the water 
and sky than by the increasing heat. It begins when you 
leave the grayness of the Gulf Stream and deepens day by 
day. Each night you turn in feeling that at last you have 
perceived the ultimate blue. And each morning you wake 
up to realize that yesterday's blue was as insipid as a first- 
love compared to deepness of the color of this new day. 

The fourth night out I was on the bridge with the cap- 
tain watching the glory of the summer moon lazily climb- 
ing up from the horizon painting a silver " trail of rapture 
in the wonder of the sea." Suddenly the rich notes of a 
guitar broke the silence, and then after a few preliminary 
chords a West Indian negro melody floated up from the 
forecastle hatch. The captain stopped his sentry-like pac- 
ing, smiled contentedly, and pointed with his pipe towards 
the sound. 

"Hear J em?" he said. "They're getting near home. 
They never sing above twenty-five degrees north. It's 
time to get out your white clothes." 

And so you pass into the tropics to the music of minor 



chords. It is worth the trip just to see the delectable grin 
of perfect joy with which the negro steward lays out your 

Late the next night we caught the gleam of Culebra, 
our new naval base off Porto Rico. It was the first sign 
of land since the snow-covered Jersey hills had sunk into 
the sea. 

Before dawn the next morning I was startled out of 
sleep by a sound I had not heard for many months, 
for it is not heard on Broadway it was a cock crow- 
ing, answered almost immediately by the barking of a 
farm dog. I was on deck as soon as might be. Our 
ship was riding at anchor off the Danish island of St. 
Thomas. The moon had set, and in the darkness there 
was little to see except the jagged outline of the moun- 
tains. The entrance to the harbor was dimly visible, and 
inside a few early lights twinkled in the town. But the 
land breeze brought us out many unfamiliar sounds and 
innumerable rich perfumes the pungent fragrance of the 

As the dawn broke we got under way. It is a wonderful 
harbor. The entrance" is less than half a mile across, and 
within the hills rising a thousand feet on every side is a 
six-fathom basin, a mile or more across. Nature has rarely 
built so perfectly safe a harbor. And at the foot of the 
bay, climbing up the hillside, is the many-colored town of 
Charlotte Amalia. 

The view from deck, as the ship creeps in to anchorage, 
is the most charming in the West Indies. The bay lacks 
the great sweep of Algiers, but it has the same mountain 
background, the same glorious blue of sea and sky. The 
village, blue and orange and yellow and red, recalls some of 
the coast towns of Italy. The garden walls of the hillside 
villas shine out dazzlingly white against the luxurious green 


of the tropical foliage. The ruins of Bluebeard's castle 
above the town a landmark of the old days of buccaneers 
present the only touch of gray. The rest is a riot of color. 
Most striking of all is the gaudy red Danish fortress down 
by the water front. I have never seen so red a building. 
At first it is glaring and unpleasant, but after a time one's 
eyes become' accustomed to the new scale of color values 
which the intense sun of the tropics requires. And the 
bizarre glory of this fort which would be unspeakably 
offensive in the gray north seems to be not out of place 
in the color scheme of St. Thomas. The town of Char- 
lotte Amalia has taken the atmosphere of Algiers and the 
gorgeous coloring of Venice, rolled them into one, and 
reduced it to miniature. 

But the place is beautiful only from the ship. As soon 
as the harbor doctor had approved our bill of health, the 
bumboats swarmed about the ship. We were taken ashore 
by an old negro named Ebenezer. We chose him from all 
the crowd of dilapidated ferrymen who had bid so raven- 
ously for our traffic, because his white-bearded face looked 
the hungriest. The poverty of the negroes all through the 
islands is appalling. Old Ebenezer had never been out of 
St. Thomas. And his horizon was even narrower than the 
land-locked harbor. As he took us in he pointed out the 
various places of interest Bluebeard's castle, the factory 
where the natives make the bay rum which they think has 
made their island famous. At last his long, emaciated finger 
pointed to an uninteresting modern building. 

"Th' Barracks, suh." 

"Have they a large garrison here?" I asked. 

"Oh, yus, suh! an a'my, suh." 

"How many?" I asked. "Ten?' 

"Oh, suh! No, suh! Mo' than ten, suh. Thu'ty, sir! 
About thu'ty, suh!" 


Ebenezer's whole vision was on the scale of a large army 
of about thirty men. 

It was immediately after breakfast when we came ashore, 
but the sun was already hard at work. There must have 
been a difference of twenty degrees in the temperature 
afloat and ashore. For when we clambered upon the glar- 
ing white concrete dock, the heat struck us like a blow. 
The town is as uninteresting as it is hot. There are nine 
hundred and ninety-nine colored people to one white. 
The women were shapeless, and all seemed old. Their cos- 
tume held no picturesqueness. There was rarely a touch 
of color for the most part their dresses were of the dirtiest 
white. Poverty hangs heavy over everything. The rich 
forests which once covered the hills have long since passed 
away. The soil is almost sterile. Little grows but the bay 
tree, from which the hair tonic the island's one industry 
is produced. Steam traffic and cables have ruined the 
place. The magnificent harbor which was once crowded 
with sailing vessels waiting for orders is now almost de- 

Charlotte Amalia is a good place to shop, as it is a free 
port. European goods can be bought at fabulously low 
prices. While I was stocking up on linen clothes, I was 
approached by the tallest, lankiest, blackest negro on the 
island. "General," he said, " liketohavesomebodycarry- 
yourgoods?" I had to make him repeat it a dozen times 
before I could locate the spaces between the words. His 
eyes were so big and serious about it, his general scenic 
effect so unutterably droll, that I took him on, and chris- 
tened him "The Army." We taught him to salute, right 
about face, etc., and loaded him up with our bundles until 
he looked more like a pack mule than an army. 

He proved of great service to one of our party who wanted 
to get typical photographs. He posed in a dozen attitudes 


himself, procured other groups for us an old woman with 
her hay-laden ass. Then we began to poke fun at him; 
could he get the prettiest girl in the town to pose for us? 
Certainly. He disappeared around the corner, and came 
back in ten minutes with a girl who admitted that she was 
the belle of the island. He was wonderfully solemn about 
it all. 

"Could you bring us a volcano?" I asked. "My friend 
here wants a picture of a volcano." 

"No, suh," he said, saluting with the utmost seriousness. 
"They are not in season. You can't get them except in 
May. Come back in May." 

I paid him off after that and discharged him. I have a 
sick feeling every time I think of it. My friends good- 
naturedly insist that the man was stupid and didn't know 
what a volcano was. But much as I would like to believe 
this, I can't. I think he was paying me back in my own 
coin overpaying me. I don't think I'll go back in May. 

When the captain had finished business with the com- 
pany's agent, he joined us and led us off in search of refresh- 
ment. The Grand Hotel faces the public square by the 
landing-place. It is built like first-class hotels in tropical 
cities the world over thick white walls, high spacious 
rooms, and a veranda roofed over and protected by many 
blinds and sunshades. The whole thing is built on a scale 
ten times too big for a little town like Charlotte Amalia. 
The great hall was deserted except for a child at play. 
On the veranda a Danish officer was breakfasting in soli- 
tary splendor. There was no servant in sight; no bell with 
which to call one. The officer, seeing our helplessness, 
bawled out some Danish summons at the top of his voice. 
By and by a waiter appeared. He was as black and shiny 
as an ebony cane. He wore duck trousers, an open net- 
work undershirt, to which he had added a high celluloid 


collar and a soiled white tie. Could we get some ices? He 
did not seem at all sure one way or the other. After severe 
cross-examination he admitted that he could get some bot- 
tled kola for the ladies and some beer for the men. 

The Grand Hotel with its hundred empty guest rooms, 
its vast deserted veranda, its barefooted, slovenly servant, 
is typical of this disappointed island. There is another 
equally desolate hotel in St. Thomas, called "1868" after 
the great year when King Christian the Ninth signed the 
treaty by which he ceded his West Indian islands to the 
United States. 

In those days the people of St. Thomas dreamed great 
dreams. And these dreams were the foundation on which 
these great hotels were built. At last the island was to 
recover from the decline which steam shipping had brought. 
From insignificance it was to rise to "The Gibraltar of the 
West" the great naval outpost of the United States. 
England was spending millions on the fortifications of Ber- 
muda and St. Lucia. Spain for centuries had been strength- 
ening San Juan in Porto Rico and the different ports of 
Cuba. But St. Thomas held the key to the Spanish Main 
as a glance at the map will show. American gold and 
American life were to flow into the port. For half the 
money the other nations were spending on their fortresses 
the harbor of St. Thomas could have been made twice as 
strong. So it was not a baseless dream. 

A tornado and tidal wave the only such catastrophe 
recorded in these islands spoiled it all. 

Our diplomatic record in regard to these islands is the 
blackest stain on the annals of the Department of State 
and it is to be the more blushed at because the nation we 
slighted was too small to resent the insult with arms. Dur- 
ing the Civil War the need of a naval base in the West 
Indies became apparent. Lincoln and Seward were greatly 


interested in the project, and St. Thomas was selected by 
them as it would have been by any intelligent observer. 
It was perfectly fitted to our purpose. Denmark, which 
through the war had been more friendly to Washington 
than the other European nations, needed money. The mat- 
ter was broached at Copenhagen by our diplomats, and, 
after considerable haggling over the price, was favorably 
considered. England and Germany, who did not wish to 
see our hands strengthened, objected as strongly as pos- 
sible. But Denmark dared the ill-will of these powerful 
neighbors and pushed on the negotiations. The proceedings 
were halted by the bullets which killed Lincoln and wounded 
Seward. But the matter was reopened as soon as Seward 
had recovered, early in 1866. He visited -St. Thomas to 
satisfy himself that all was as represented. Things moved 
rapidly, and in July, 1867, Seward cabled our ambassador 
in Copenhagen: "Close with Denmark's offer. St. Johns, 
St. Thomas, seven and a half million. Send ratified treaty 
immediately." In October the treaty was signed. 

Then occurred the tornado and tidal wave which picked 
up the old United States frigate Monongahela and stranded 
it high and dry in the middle of the town of Santa Cruz. 
The ship was refloated, but the sensational stories of the 
hurricane turned American sentiment against the island. 

Denmark, however, considered the preliminary treaty as 
binding. On the 9th of January, 1868, a plebiscite was held 
on the island; almost unanimously the inhabitants voted 
for the transfer. The Danish Rigsdad formally ratified the 
treaty. And poor old King Christian sent out a pathetic 
proclamation to his West Indian subjects: 

". . . With sincere sorrow do we look forward to the 
severance of those ties which for so many years have united 
you to the mother country. . . . We trust that nothing 
has been neglected upon our side to secure the future wel- 


fare of our beloved and faithful subjects, and that a mighty 
impulse, both moral and material, will be given to the happy 
development of the islands under the new sovereignty. 
Commending you to God, . . ." 

Our Senate was pledged to ratify the treaty within four 
months. Action was postponed two years. And mean- 
while the treaty became buried in some pigeon-hole of the 
Committee on Foreign Relations. King Christian had to 
swallow the insult as best he could, and the islanders re- 
gretfully returned to their old allegiance. 

Negotiations were renewed from time to time, and hope 
still lived in St. Thomas until the Spanish War gave us a 
naval base at Culebra. Then hopeless disappointment set- 
tled down on the island. 

It was still night when we sighted Martinique. The 
black shaft of Mont Pelee pushed up through the semi- 
darkness to what seemed a ghastly height. The top spur 
was lost in the clouds. But as the dawn came up out of 
the sea the air cleared and the sinister peak stood out clear- 
cut and cruel. The sides of the mountain are a dark, 
angry red, scarred by innumerable black ravines. It is 
rendered more appalling by the contrast of its barren flanks 
with the luxurious vegetation below. The towering cone 
would be a fearsome thing to see even to one who did not 
know its murderous history. 

About the skirts of the island runs a golden-green fringe 
of cane-brakes; above are heavy forests of tamarind, mango, 
and cabinet woods the darkest shades of green; below are 
the red rocks and the sea. The shores rise sheer from the 
deep water, and we passed in close enough to see the white- 
clad natives at work in the fields. The plantations run 
high up the slopes to the "Great Woods," and, like French 
agriculture everywhere, show minute care and a high de- 


gree of culture. A farm road circles the island, dotted 
here and there with white-walled homesteads, half hidden 
in luxuriant gardens. Sleepy, nodding cocoa palms are 
grouped about most of the houses, and in every garden are 
the " flambeau" trees red and brilliant as a Kentucky 

We passed within sight of the gray blotch of ruins which 
was once St. Pierre. It is scarcely a dozen years since Mont 
Pelee exploded and blotted out this gay city, this Paris of 
the West, but stories which are told about it are already 
becoming legendary. If, for instance, you grumble at the 
lack of good hotels in the West Indies, some one is sure to 
say: "Ah! you should have seen St. Pierre; there were no 
better hotels in Europe and the cafe's! Why, the Rue 
Victor Hugo looked like the Boulevard des Italiens." Or, 
if you find life in the islands dull, you are straightway 
assured that St. Pierre was gayety itself. There was a 
theatre at St. Pierre. There was a promenade in the 
botanical gardens, where a band played every afternoon, 
where ravishing Creole beauties smiled at you. The legend 
is explicit in this matter. The beauties of St. Pierre smiled 
at all strangers. There is not an old timer in the islands 
who was not a hero in a St. Pierre romance. And on the 
8th of May, 1902, a little after early Mass, Mont Pele"e 
with its torrent of fire wiped out St. Pierre and its gayety, 
and all but one of its thirty-five thousand inhabitants. 
Nothing is left but the dreariest of dreary ruins. 

Farther down the coast is Fort de France. It does not 
pretend to be what St. Pierre was, but still it is a fascinat- 
ing city. The harbor, which is unusually good, is made 
picturesque by an old fort which is gray with history. 
The English captured it in 1762, again in 1781, 1794, and 
1809. After Waterloo the island was restored to France, 
and it is thoroughly French. It was hot, but the heat was 


soon forgotten in the joy of being again on French soil. 
The mansard roofs, the iron balconies, the brass bowls 
before the shops of the hair-dressers, the patisseries, the 
gendarmes everything recalled the cities of France. There 
are two department stores called "Au bon marche*." A 
provincial French town without two such stores would be 
as incomplete as an Uncle Tom's Cabin road company 
without two Topsies. 

But of more brilliant color and varied interest than the 
stores are the open markets. In the early morning they 
are crowded with natives, sellers of fruit and vegetables, 
crude pottery, and general merchandise. There is an in- 
cessant din of bargaining in the queer French patois of 
which I could not catch one word in ten. 

The crossing of races has gone to the extreme in Marti- 
nique. I had never before realized how many different 
shades there are of black. Of the 180,000 inhabitants very 
few are pure black, and fewer are pure white. The over- 
whelming majority are of various degrees of mixed blood. 
But they are a comely race in striking contrast with the 
natives of the northern islands. The women are lithe and 
well formed, many of them fit models for sculpture. Their 
dresses are a riot of color. The length of their skirts is a 
mark of their station in life. A well-to-do Creole will have 
hers made three feet too long in front, with a train of five 
or six feet behind. They wear a sort of belt below the hips 
and tuck up their skirts, by this means, to whatever height 
their occupation demands. In their anxiety to protect 
them from the dirt of the streets it is evident that their 
skirts are worn solely as a decoration, and not at all from 
a sense of modesty. It is a striking example of Professor 
Veblin's "Theory of Conspicuous Waste." Another thing 
which attracted my attention was that, while most of the 
women were barefoot, some wore a slipper on one foot, 


invariably the left foot. I asked a policeman why this was. 
He looked at me with condescending pity at my ignorance. 

"Is it not Holy Week?" he asked. 

Perhaps to one more familiar than I with the rites of the 
Church in the tropics this may be an explanation, but to 
me it only deepened the mystery. 

The turbans of the women are quite wonderful affairs, 
and the bandanna about their necks completes a close har- 
mony of color which makes a parrakeet look like an ama- 

The custom of carrying everything on their heads has 
given the people a strange stride, in which the knee joint 
is unused. This custom if continued indefinitely will 
surely result in the atrophying of their arms. It is no 
exaggeration to say they carry everything on their heads. 
I saw one woman with a baby buggy balanced on her tur- 
ban. I was not near enough to see if there was a baby 
in it. But the greatest marvel was a big buck negro, with 
perfectly good arms. He was strolling down the street with 
a soiled and dilapidated brickbat on his head. I stopped 
him, and asked why he carried with so much care so worth- 
less a piece of rubbish. He took off the brickbat and showed 
me a letter he was carrying, and explained that he had to 
put on some weight to keep the wind from blowing it away. 

After the monotony of the ship's fare a chance at French 
cooking was not to be missed. At the Grand Hotel de 
PEurope I found a chef with the true artistic instinct. He 
came up, dusted all over with flour, from his oven, where 
he was concocting a pate. Delighted at the idea of an 
appreciative patron, he sat down with me in the cafe* and 
sketched out a dejeuner. He was from the Faubourg St. 
Antoine, and it was delightful to hear the twang of a true 
Parisian accent after the slovenly patois of the natives. 
The lunch was ready at noon, and he had done himself 


proud. There was a fragrant melon, the pdte of calf brains 
at which I had found him working, chicken en casserole, a 
salad, and dessert. The only false note was the coffee. 
It was native. There are people who claim that West 
Indian coffee is superior to all others. But it must be an 
acquired taste. 

Later in the day I presented a letter of introduction to 
the agent of an American business house. He came from 
the north of Maine, of French-Canadian ancestry, and was 
as out of place in the tropics as a snowball would be. And 
the fever was melting him away as fast as if he had been 
one. His hatred of the place was pathetic. He took me 
over his house, pointing out all the villainies of life in Fort 
de France. 

"Look!" he said, with the eloquent gestures he had in- 
herited from his forebears. "Look! look at this room! 
They called it a kitchen! And that that is supposed to be 
a stove. And here, look at this it is supposed to be a 
bathtub! Not for horses for us! Every time my wife 
takes a bath in it she cries!" 

He was perfectly speechless, he told me volubly, over the 
lack of sanitary conveniences. He was a grotesque old 
Northerner in his crisp white ducks, and it was hard not 
to laugh. But the Tropics will kill him if he is not re- 

The show-place of Fort de France is the "Savane," the 
great open square, where, surrounded by a circle of mag- 
nificent royal palms, is the marble statue of Josephine. 
I did not view it at close quarters, for it was raised by 
Napoleon III, and the official sculpture of the Second 
Empire could never tempt me to walk a hundred yards in 
a broiling sun. But seen from the shaded cafe* of the 
Hotel de P Europe, it is exquisite in its setting. Pure white, 
under the gigantic palms, it is outlined against a heavy 


green background of mango trees. Off to the right, past 
the moss-grown old fort, you can see a clump of cocoa 
palms on the other side of the bay. It is the plantation of 
La Pagerie, where the Empress was born. Some ruins of 
the old house where she passed the first fifteen years of her 
life still stand. 

My memories of Martinique center about a woman whose 
life had been almost as eventful as that of the sad Empress. 
I saw her first in the early morning. When our ship cast 
anchor, we were surrounded, as usual, by a swarm of little 
boats. They had to keep back a few hundred feet until 
the Harbor Master had come aboard and lowered our yel- 
low flag. Watching them, I noticed another boat a hundred 
yards beyond this circle. It was manned by two sturdy 
blacks, and in the stern-sheets sat a woman in a heavy 
widow's veil. The moment our quarantine flag dropped 
she gave an order to her men and they rowed rapidly along- 
side. She did not wait for her meagre trunk to be hoisted 
over the side, but disappeared immediately in her state- 

I found the affair quite mysterious; for our boat was to 
stay twelve hours in port, and people are not generally in 
such a hurry to come aboard. And even more unusual 
was the lack of any one to see her off; for in this neigh- 
borly climate there is generally quite a formidable mob of 
friends on the dock, and leave-takings are loud and volum- 

But the interest of things ashore drove the thought of 
this solitary woman from my mind until, back in the ship 
at dinner, I found her seated beside me. She had thrown 
the heavy veil back over her shoulder. Her profile was of 
the purest French type; long, drooping eyelashes held a 
suggestion of Creole blood, but it must have been a very 
slight mixture and many generations back. She knew no 


English, so I became acquainted with her, helping her 
decipher the bill of fare. She accepted my aid with gra- 
cious reserve. Her long, delicate hands, the gentle refine- 
ment of her manners, spoke of race and good breeding. 

We were scheduled to sail at eight, but for some reason 
we were delayed. And after dinner, as I was pacing the 
deck, she came to me and asked with a vain effort to hide 
her anxiety if I knew how soon we would leave. The 
farewell whistle had blown a few minutes before, and I 
told her we were going at once. But this did not reassure 
her, and I had to go forward to get definite word from the 
captain. Before I could rejoin her, the anchor was up and 
we were swinging out of the harbor. I found her settling 
herself comfortably in a steamer chair. The look of worry 
had given place to one of exceeding good cheer. 

"May I trouble you once more, Monsieur? " she said. 
"Have you a match?" 

I had, and I asked permission to draw up my chair and 
smoke with her. Her face was animated, and she seemed 
to welcome a chance to talk. There were a great many 
questions about America a strange country to her and 
then about myself. When I told her that I was a writer, 
her face, which was ever a mirror of her thoughts, clouded 

"Madame does not like journalists?" I asked. 

"Oh, yes, I do," and she laughed merrily. "My hus- 
band is an editor." 

Her use of the present tense surprised me, as I had 
thought her a widow. After this beginning, she told me 
much of her own story. When she was eight years old, 
her father, who had been one of the richest ship-owners in 
St. Pierre, lost his life in a hurricane only a quarter of a 
mile from the port. Thrice she had had the roof blown off 
her house by the hurricanes. After her father's death she 


had been sent to a convent in Paris for her education. At 
fifteen she had returned to the reckless city of St. Pierre. It 
had been a gay time of balls and picnics and much court- 
ing. Before seventeen she had married a professor in the 
high school. 

"My mother did not approve/' she said, "but it was a 
true marriage of the heart." 

And then her husband had "fallen in love with politics" 
such was her expression. And politics in the French 
islands is a sad thing. 

The negroes have developed no ability for good govern- 
ment. It is more than a century since Toussaint 1'Ouver- 
ture drove the whites away from the neighboring island of 
Hayti. Since then the Black Republic has had external 
peace. But its internal history has been one long record 
of bloodshed and tyranny. And there is probably no place 
in the Western Hemisphere marked with such utter degra- 
dation. The French have kept a certain control over their 
two other islands Guadeloupe and Martinique. But it has 
not been an efficient control, and while the French negroes 
have not become so debased as in Hayti, they are in pretty 
sore straits. "The Rights of Man" are in full swing in 
these colonies; adult men vote, irrespective of color. As 
the whites are vastly outnumbered, nearly all the officials, 
except the Governor and the gendarmes, who are sent out 
from France, are black. The islands which are unusually 
blessed by nature, and were formerly exceedingly prosper- 
ous, are dying of the dry-rot of political corruption. The 
French Chamber is now investigating the affairs of Guade- 
loupe. The scandal which started with the negro deputy 
has involved almost all the officials, notably the judi- 

Things were just as bad in Martinique. My acquaint- 
ance's husband had tried to bring reform by founding a 


new party a coalition of the whites and the more respon- 
sible blacks against the corrupt gang of mulattoes led by 
the Deputy Severe. Her husband left his school work and 
founded a paper with her money, I judged. 

By chance they were visiting his family at Fort de France 
at the time of the eruption of Mont Pele"e. But every one 
of her relatives perished at St. Pierre. He pushed on his 
political work with success, and in 1907, in the campaign 
for the Conseil Ge"ne"ral, the new party elected all but two 
of the Councillors. The following May the time came for 
the election of the municipal officers of Fort de France. 
The coalition nominated a negro named Labat for Mayor. 
The old Mayor, Antoine Siger, was nominated by the 
mulatto gang to succeed himself. Feeling ran high, but 
the defeat of the grafters seemed certain. At the last mo- 
ment the old Mayor appointed the boss, Severe, President 
of the Election Board. It was as though some Tammany 
mayor had chosen Tweed to count the ballots. Labat, with 
several supporters, went to the Hotel de Ville to try to ar- 
range for a more trustworthy Election Board. A number of 
shots were fired, and Siger, who stood close beside Labat, 
was killed. 

"The shots were meant for Labat," she said. "It was 
the old gang who fired. Why should we have killed Siger? 
We were sure of winning the election. But the administra- 
tion was all against us; the Advocate-General, all the 
judges, owed their positions to Severe. So they tried to 
convict the leaders of our party. My husband was away 
in the interior, voting from our estate, but they arrested 
him too. The trial lasted a long time, but they only proved 
the guilt of their own party. 

" The day after Siger was killed there was another panic. 
It was terrible. The whites expected a negro uprising. 
The old gang had told the blacks that we were planning 


to massacre them. And the Governor from France, who is 
a fool, made matters worse." 

Since this tragedy Fort de France has been governed 
administratively. No elections being permitted, the old 
corrupt gang is still in power. Nothing but the presence 
of the mounted gendarmes, who patrol the island day and 
night, prevents wholesale bloodshed. As it is, duelling is 
incessant. Her husband had been challenged three times in 
the last year. He was wounded in the first encounter, 
drew blood in the second, killed his man in the third. As a 
result, he had been compelled to flee away by night to the 
neighboring English island of St. Lucia. She had stayed 
behind in Martinique to keep his paper alive. But every 
day she had been insulted in the street, every mail brought 
threatening letters, at night she slept with a revolver under 
her pillow. At last she could stand it no longer, and was 
now on her way to join her husband. Afraid of some hos- 
tile demonstration even of arrest if her departure were 
known she had masked as a widow and had been rowed 
aboard, not from the public dock, but from the plantation 
of a friend farther down the bay. 

We sat up all through the soft southern night it was 
useless, she said, for her to try to sleep talking of the polit- 
ical tangles of the colony. It was a sordid, almost hopeless, 
story that she told. It was not exaggerated, for I have since 
had opportunity to verify it. 

The morning held another surprise for me. As we drew 
up to the dock at St. Lucia, I saw a man running wildly 
towards us. And it is not often that you see a well-dressed 
man running in the West Indies. He wore a spotless white 
suit and an elegant drooping Panama hat. He was a negro 
as black as the coal-piles ashore. 

"Mon mari!" And my beautiful lady was leaning over 
the rail, frantically throwing kisses to the grinning black. 


As soon as the gangplank was down he dashed aboard and 
into her arms. I have seldom seen a more affectionate 

Barbados is not very impressive from the sea. It is a 
coral island and flat. But the open harbor of Carlisle Bay 
is one of the busiest ports in the West Indies. Anchored in 
between the great seagoing steamers is a host of small 
fishing-boats. One of the first things you notice as your 
ship comes to anchor one of the things which distinguish 
Barbados from the other islands is the number of trim 
police-boats which dart about the harbor, bringing order 
out of a maze of traffic much as a London "bobby" controls 
things on the Strand. 

In the first quarter of the seventeenth century a ship, 
bearing English colonists to a neighboring island, cast 
anchor off Barbados. A landing party went ashore, and, 
finding it a rich country, carved into the bark of a mango 
tree: "James, King of England and this island." Since 
then the sovereignty of Great Britain has been continuous. 
And Barbados stands in striking contrast to the other 
islands, which have changed their flags almost as frequently 
as the neighboring Latin-American republics have changed 
their Presidents. 

The police-boats in the harbor are only a foretaste of the 
orderliness which meets you ashore. The fruits of the three- 
hundred-year English rule are apparent everywhere. So 
impressive was the law-abiding air of the place that one of 
the first things I did was to drive out to the centre of all 
this order the police headquarters. 

Starting from the miniature Trafalgar Square in the 
miniature metropolis of Bridgetown, the carriage passed 
along the most beautiful, the most superbly kept road I 


have ever seen. It is of coral rock, which disintegrates in 
the air till it looks like cement and is almost as soft as turf. 
On each side are low white walls, over which hang the gor- 
geous blossoms of the tropics the brilliant red hibiscus, a 
deep purple wistaria-like trailer, and an occasional flam- 
beau tree. Towering above you all along the way are the 
most magnificent of all trees the royal palms, lofty Doric 
columns of living marble, crowned with superb capitals of 
agate green. And back of the flowering gardens, under 
these graceful giant palms, are neat, prosperous-looking 
English homes. Their wide bungalow verandas give an 
impression of cool, care-free, almost lazy ease. 

Then, abruptly, come the suburbs of negro slums, cabins 
of palm-thatch, old boards, and scraps of corrugated iron. 
The shacks are so crowded together, the alleyways so choked 
with children, that it makes an ordinary ant-hill seem 
sparsely settled. It is appalling. In our city slums more 
than half the misery and indecency of overcrowding is hid- 
den by substantial walls. Here it is all open to the eye 
and unspeakably ugly. 

It is a vast relief when the road comes to open country. 
The white garden walls of the English, the squalid hovels of 
the blacks, give place to the dense golden-green cane-brakes. 
On every hillock there is a fat, stolid Dutch windmill, which 
looks weirdly out of place among the cocoa palms. Here 
and there you see a blotch of darker green the park which 
surrounds some manor house. 

After half an hour's drive we came to such a park, and, 
turning in through the gateway, found a charming, well- 
kept garden. The carriage stopped before a low but spa- 
cious bungalow. There was nothing to show that it was 
not a private home except for the sentry before the door. 

In a reception-room upstairs filled with military pictures 
and portraits of the royal family I found Colonel Kaye, the 


Inspector-General. He is so gracious that he seems more 
at home on the veranda of the Savannah Club than at Head- 
quarters. But this mild-mannered gentleman is police chief 
over a population of nearly 200,000, only 16,000 of whom are 
white. There are 166 square miles in the island; it is the 
most densely populated agricultural district in the world. 

"However, there is not much crime," Colonel Kaye re- 
marked. And, to prove his statement, he showed me the 
calendar of the Supreme Court, which was about to con- 
vene. "There are only fifteen cases of felony this term. 
The court sits every four months. Say an average of fifty 
serious crimes a year." 

He said this in a matter-of-fact way, with no show of 
pride. But I doubt if there is any community of 200,000 
in America which could make so good a showing. There 
are no regular troops in Barbados. A handful of white 
men rule 175,000 negroes and keep the rate of felonies 
down to fifty a year! 

"The crime which gives us most trouble," continued the 
Colonel, "is setting fire to the sugar-cane. This offence 
comes from three sources: Sometimes the boys do it just 
to see the blaze. Sometimes a man who has been dis- 
charged does it for revenge. But generally it is in order 
to get work. When the cane has been scorched, it has to 
be milled at once." 

And this points to an added wonder. The mass of the 
negroes are deathly poor. During the few months of har- 
vest and planting an able-bodied man on the sugar estates 
earns twenty cents a day. But during the long winter 
months some become so utterly destitute that they put a 
torch to the cane and risk ten years of penal servitude 
to hasten the harvest and their chance at twenty cents a 
day. Yet in spite of such poverty there are only fifty 
serious crimes a year. 




Colonel Kaye, like all the Englishmen I met on the island, 
was convinced that the quiet and order in Barbados is due 
to the limited suffrage. The right to vote depends on the 
ownership of considerable property. This qualification 
eliminates many of the poorer whites, the descendants of 
the indentured servants, and almost all the negroes. 

The race domination is frankly acknowledged. The 
island has always been and still is run for the whites "the 
better-class whites." The abolition of slavery in 1834 did 
not alter this in the least. Accepting this premise, the 
island is well run, very well run. It is a heavenly place 
to live for the white man who can ignore the frightful 
misery of the negroes. And there can be no doubt that 
the English residents succeed in shutting their eyes to every- 
thing which is unpleasant or threatening. They get more 
pleasure out of existence than any people with whom I 
have ever mingled. It is an energetic, gay life of outdoor 
sports, cold baths, picnics and balls, afternoon tea, and iced 

The social life centers in the parish of Hastings, two 
miles down the coast from Bridgetown. The beautiful 
parade of the deserted barracks has been turned into a 
playground. The Savannah Club, on a polo day, realizes 
the English ideal of gayety. The wide, shaded verandas 
are crowded with fair-complexioned English girls in lawn 
dresses just such as are to be seen at a Henley boat race or 
the Derby. Clean-limbed, clear-skinned Englishmen, in flan- 
nels, stroll about between the tea-tables trying to be senti- 
mental without looking so. Inside is a cardroom where 
"bridge" is being taken seriously. The inveterate golfers 
are off early, as their course crosses the polo field. Tennis 
is in full swing on half a dozen excellent courts. The gray- 
heads and children are busy on the croquet grounds. The 
polo ponies are being rubbed and saddled. At last the 


Governor and his American wife drive up in their trap. 
The police band begins to play, and the game begins. The 
scene recalls some of Kipling's stories of the "hill life" at 

A quarter of a mile farther down the coast is the great 
Marine Hotel, the largest and by far the best hotel I found 
in the West Indies. It is the scene of the big island dances, 
and is almost as important to the social life of the place as 
the Club. In its lobbies you meet Britishers from South 
America and the islands waiting for the Royal Mail boat 
home. They are a sturdy, adventurous people. But it is 
an aggravating fact that they will not tell the stories such 
fascinating stories they might be with which their frontier 
life has been filled. The taciturnity of a Londoner never 
troubles my spirit how could a dweller in the dismal city 
have anything interesting to say? But when I meet a 
Britisher fresh from the jungle, tanned and scarred, who 
refuses to talk about anything but the new Dreadnoughts, 
I grind my teeth and curse the law against manslaughter. 

It is not quite all gayety in Barbados. Sometimes not 
often I heard complaints about the steady fall in the price 
of sugar. As this is the one industry of the island, and the 
price has been falling for many years, it is a serious problem 
to the thoughtful. But I found very few who were willing 
to do so gloomy a thing as think about the future. One of 
the most popular social functions of the island is furnished 
by the auction sales. I was invited to a tennis party one 
afternoon, and when I arrived I found the plans were 

"The Broughton auction sale is set for to-day, so we 
decided to go over and see it instead of playing tennis," 
my hostess said. 

We all piled into carriages, and, after a beautiful ride 
into the interior, we turned through an old gateway, past 


an Elizabethan lodge built of coral stone, into a century- 
old park. Up the drive I could see an old manor house, 
which, if it were not for the palms and the flaming hibiscus, 
might well have been in Surrey or Kent. There was a 
crowd of carriages about the door; the stable court was full 
of them. The porch was dense with well-dressed people, as 
though it were some grand reception. 

"All the best people come to the auctions," my hostess 
said. "Even the Governor comes sometimes." 

As we drove up there was a clamor of merry greetings, 
for in Barbados everybody who is anybody knows every- 
body else who is anybody. We pushed our way through the 
crowd into the dismantled house. The rooms were splen- 
didly large, decorated after the noble old English fashion; 
the woodwork some of it finely carved was almost all 
mahogany. But the carpets were up, the furniture ranged 
stiffly along the wall, everything movable was numbered. 
The sale was in progress in the dining-room. The great 
mahogany table was loaded down with plate and glassware 
and porcelain. It was being sold in blocks at a pitifully 
low price. And there was the finest mahogany sideboard 
I have ever seen. It was simple in its craftsmanship; 
almost all the lines were straight; but it was marvellously 
heavy, built in the old days when the precious wood was 
as cheap in the islands as pine. It had been in the family 
over a century. And it sold for forty dollars! Such a 
piece could not be bought on Fifth Avenue for five hun- 
dred. I was tempted to bid it was such a rare old treas- 
ure but I never hope to have a house big enough to 
hold it. 

My party had not come to buy it was only a social 
reunion. Most of the island aristocracy was there, and 
every one enjoyed himself immensely. Out in the corridor 
I noticed a lonely group of furniture labelled "Not for sale." 


There were a tall hall-clock of ancient make, a high-backed 
rocking-chair, and two family portraits. 

"Isn't it a shame!" I heard some one say. "I would 
like to buy that clock." 

It seemed cruel to want to take even these few relics. 
I wondered what last leaf of this fine old family of Brough- 
tons had saved these tokens out of the wreck. The old 
high-back chair how many generations of happy mothers 
had rocked their babies to sleep in it ! And now the young- 
est of the line cannot find heart to part with it. Some old 
maid she is, I imagine. She will rock away what is left of 
her life in that high-back chair in some strange, dismal 
room, with only the ticking of the ancient clock and the 
two old portraits for company. And the laughter which 
came echoing down the dismantled hall seemed to me as 
horrid as the merrymaking at a Flemish funeral. 

For none of the fine hospitable Barbadian houses can 
escape a similar fate unless the price of sugar goes up and 
the negroes begin to bear fewer children. And neither of 
these things seems probable. 

But the climate is delicious. Each day, as it passes, is 
perfect. The trade winds, blowing unobstructed from the 
coast of Africa, bring a stimulating vigor to the air which is 
unknown elsewhere in the tropics. It would be hard to 
imagine a more healthy place. While I was there the 
island was quarantined for yellow fever. There had been 
six cases among the two hundred thousand people. None 
of them died, and the one effect of the quarantine was a 
vigorous polishing of sewer-pipes. As every one familiar 
with the tropics knows, a port under quarantine is clean, 
even if at other times it is unspeakably dirty, for quaran- 
tine hurts business and makes the sanitary officials wake 
up. But Barbados, being English, is always clean. So the 
outbreak, while I was there, had no visible effect. 


Anyhow, it is a lotus island. Nobody worries. It is so 
delicious to sit on a shaded veranda and hear the clink of 
ice that even the residents forget the misery of the negroes 
and the steady fall of sugar. So there is no excuse for a 
mere visitor not to find the place charming. 



ALTHOUGH the outbreak of yellow fever in Barbados was 
not serious, the quarantine wrecked my plans. I had ex- 
pected to leave the island on the Royal Mail boat for 
Colon. But as long as the quarantine lasted no ship which 
touched at Bridgetown would be allowed to enter any other 
Caribbean port. 

If I had been a Mohammedan or something Oriental I 
suppose I would have said "Kismet Allah-il- Allah, " and 
enjoyed myself. It is a delectable island. But being a 
child of the Western Hurry Land, and overdue on the 
Isthmus, I fretted exceedingly. The officials of the Health 
Department had no idea when the embargo would be lifted. 
It might last a week or a couple of months. I once tried 
to call on a Russian editor in St. Petersburg. His wife told 
me that he was in jail. 

"When will he get out?" I asked. 

"Even God doesn't know," she said. 

I was in a similar condition of uncertainty. Even the 
American Consul did not know when I could get out. 

But the quarantine had not been in force two days, when 
I found a way out. On the veranda of the hotel I over- 
heard two men in earnest conversation. One was excitedly 
insisting that it was an absolute necessity for him to be in 
Martinique within a few days. The older man, a fine look- 
ing G. A. R. type of American, said: 

"I'm sorry, I can't help you get to Martinique, but I 
could fix it, if you wanted to go to Colon." 



I told him my troubles without further introduction. 

He turned out to be a man named Earner employed by 
the Isthmian Canal Commission to recruit laborers. It 
had been an interesting job experimenting in racial types. 
From first to last the Commission had tried about eighty 
nationalities, Hindoo coolies, Spaniards, negroes from the 
States, from Africa, from Jamaica, from the French Islands, 
to settle down to those from Barbados. They have proved 
the most efficient. This recruiting officer was about to send 
over a consignment of seven hundred on an especially char- 
tered steamer. They would avoid the quarantine restric- 
tions by cruising about the six days necessary for yellow 
fever to mature. Then, if their bill of health was clear 
they could dock. My new acquaintance was not exactly 
enthusiastic. It would be easy to arrange for my passage 
on this boat, he said, but he did not think that one white 
passenger among this cargo of blacks would have a very 
pleasing time. But of course I jumped at the chance; it 
was this or the risk of being held up for weeks. I was 
considerably cheered when I looked over the boat. I was 
to have the first cabin all to myself and the freedom of the 
little chart-house deck under the bridge. With a pipe and 
a bag full of ancient books about the brave old days on the 
Spanish Main, I could even expect to enjoy the trip. 

After leaving the boat I met Earner at his office and we 
went to the recruiting station. On our way we walked 
through the little park which is grandiloquently called 
Trafalgar Square. There must have been two or three 
thousand negroes crowded along one side of it -applicants 
for work on the Canal Zone and their friends. The com- 
mission pays negro laborers ten cents an hour, and ten 
hours a day. Their quarters are free, and meals cost thirty 
cents a day. It is a bonanza for them. Barbados is vastly 
over-populated, work is scant, and wages unbelievably low. 


Last year the Barbadian negroes on the Isthmus sent home 
money-orders to their relatives for over $300,000, so there 
is no end of applicants. 

Several policemen kept the crowd in order and sent them 
up into the recruiting station in batches of one hundred at 
a time. The examination took place in a large, bare loft. 
When Karner and I arrived we found two or three of his 
assistants hard at work. As the men came up, they were 
formed in line around the wall. First, all those who looked 
too old, or too young, or too weakly, were picked out and 
sent away. Then they were told that no man who had 
previously worked on the canal would be taken again. I 
do not know why this rule has been made, but they en- 
forced it with considerable care. One or two men admitted 
having been there before and went away. Then the doctor 
told them all to roll up their left sleeves, and began a mys- 
terious examination of their forearms. Presently he grabbed 
a man and jerked him out of the line, cursing him furiously. 

"You thought you could fool me, did you? It won't do 
you any good to lie, you've been there before. Get out!" 

I asked him how he told, and he showed me three little 
scars like this, .'., just below the man's elbow. 

"That's my vaccination mark," he said. "Every negro 
who has passed the examination before has been vaccinated 
like that, and I can always spot them." 

He caught two or three other men in the same way and 
sent them out on a run. They protested vehemently, one 
arguing that a dog had bitten him there. But the telltale 
white marks stood out clearly against their black skins; 
there was no gainsaying them. 

Then he went over the whole line again for tracoma, 
rolling back their eyelids and looking for inflammation. 
Seven or eight fell at this test. Then he made them strip 
and went over them round after round for tuberculosis, 


heart trouble, and rupture. A few fell out at each test. 
I don't think more than twenty were left at the end out of 
the hundred, and they certainly were a fine and fit lot of 

All during the examination I had never seen a more 
serious-looking crowd of negroes, but when at last the doc- 
tor told them that they had passed, the change was imme- 
diate. All their teeth showed at once and they started to 
shout and caper about wildly. A flood of light came in 
through the window at the end, and many streaks shot down 
through the broken shingles on their naked bodies. It was 
a weird sight something like a war dance as they expressed 
their relief in guffaws of laughter and strange antics. It 
meant semi-starvation for themselves and their families if 
they were rejected, and untold wealth a dollar a day if 
they passed. They were all vaccinated with the little tri- 
angular spots, their contracts signed, and they went pranc- 
ing down-stairs to spread the good news among their friends 
in the square. 

Sailing day was a busy one. They began putting the 
cargo of laborers aboard at sun-up. When I went down 
about nine to the dock, it seemed that the whole population 
of darkest Africa was there. I never saw so many negro 
women in my life. All of them in their gayest Sunday 
clothes, and all wailing at the top of their voices. Every 
one of the departing negroes had a mother and two or three 
sisters and at least one wife all weeping lustily. There was 
one strapping negro lass with a brilliant yellow bandanna on 
her head who was something like the cheer-leader at a col- 
lege football game; she led the wailing. 

A number would be called, the negro whose contract 
corresponded would step out of the crowd. A new wail 
would go up. Again there was a medical examination 
especially a search for the recent vaccination marks. For 


often a husky, healthy negro will pass the first examina- 
tion and sell his contract. Then by boat loads the men were 
rowed aboard. 

Later in the day I encountered the yellow-bandannaed 
negress, who had been leading the noise at the dock, sitting 
contentedly in Trafalgar Square surrounded by three very 
jovial young bucks. The negroes certainly have a wonder- 
ful ability for changing their moods. My heart had been 
quite wrung by the noise she made when her lover had left 
in the morning. 

About four o'clock I rowed out and went aboard. Such 
a mess you never saw what the Germans would call "ein 
Schweinerei." There were more than seven hundred negroes 
aboard, each with his bag and baggage. It was not a large 
boat, and every square inch of deck space was utilized. 
Some had trunks, but most only bags like that which Dick 
Whittington carried into London. There was a fair sprink- 
ling of guitars and accordeons. But the things which threw 
the most complication into the turmoil were the steamer 
chairs. Some people ashore had driven a thriving trade in 
deck chairs flimsy affairs, a yard-wide length of canvas 
hung on uncertain supports of a soft, brittle wood. The 
chairs took up an immense amount of room, and the ma- 
jority of "have nots" were jealous of the few who had them. 
It was almost impossible to walk along the deck without 
getting mixed up in a steamer chair. 

There were more formalities for the laborers to go through. 
The business reminded me of the way postal clerks handle 
registered mail. Every negro had a number corresponding 
to his contract, and the utmost precaution was taken to see 
that none had been lost and that no one who had not passed 
the medical examination had smuggled himself on board. 

We pulled up anchor about six. All the ship's officers 
head moved into the saloon; it was the only clean place 


aboard a sort of white oasis in the black Sahara. For 
fresh air the only available space was the chart-house deck. 
There was so much to do in getting things shipshape that 
none of the officers appeared at dinner. So I ate in solitary 
grandeur. The cabin was intolerably stuffy, for at each of 
the twenty-four portholes the round face of a grinning negro 
cut off what little breeze there was. There was great com- 
petition among the negroes for the portholes and the chance 
to see me eat. As nearly as I could judge the entire seven 
hundred had their innings. I faced out the first three 
courses with a certain amount of nonchalance, but with the 
roast the twenty-four pairs of shining eyes constantly 
changing got on my nerves. I did scant justice to the 
salad and dessert, absolutely neglected the coffee, and, 
grabbing my writing-pad, sought refuge up on deck. The 
steward, I suppose, thought I was seasick. 

The negroes very rapidly accommodated themselves to 
their new surroundings. The strangeness of it in some mys- 
terious way stirred up their religious instincts; they took to 
singing. A very sharp line of cleavage sprang up. The 
port side of the ship was Church of England, the starboard, 
Nonconformist. The sectarians seemed to be in the ma- 
jority, but were broken up into the Free Baptists, Metho- 
dists, etc. The Sons of God would go forth to war on the 
port side, while something which sounded like a cross be- 
tween "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and Salvation Army 
rag-time was in full blast to starboard. 

There was only one song, a secular one, on which they 
united. The tune ran something like " Tammany," and as 
near as I could catch the words the chorus ran: 

" Fever and ague all day long 

At Panama, at Panama, 
Wish you were dead before very long 
At Panama, at Panama." 


Not exactly a cheerful song, but they sang it with great 

The next day I had the opportunity to get acquainted 
with the ship's officers. The captain, a Liverpool man, was 
short and built on the lines of an English bull. His child- 
hood had been spent in France and he was absolutely bi- 
lingual. He had read much more than his hearty British 
tar's look suggested. I sat at his right. Opposite me was 
the purser, a light weight a peach and cream complexion 
and very dudish. He combed his hair carefully and groomed 
his finger-nails "a gay dog with the ladies, doncherno." 
At my right was the first officer, a fine type of straight 
limbed, straightforward Englishman. Under thirty now, 
he will be a philosopher at forty. He had not read as many 
books as the captain, but he had thought a lot more about 
each one. He was the best of the crowd. Opposite him 
was the doctor, an old salt, born in Barbados. He had an 
immense waistline, but his legs tapered down at a sharp 
angle to ridiculously small feet. His face was broad, his 
beard cut at the same angle as his legs, his hair flared out 
from his head in an amazing way, so that he looked just 
like a turnip. Next to the first officer sat the chief engi- 
neer. He was also an oldish man from Barbados. He and 
the doctor hated each other cordially and took opposite 
sides on every question except the glory of Barbados. Any 
slur cast at their native isle brought them shoulder to 
shoulder in an instant. The second officer was a youngster 
with a squint eye. He never took any part in the conversa- 
tion except to startle everyone, now and then, with an 
explosive request to pass him the pepper-sauce. 

During coffee, while various yarns were being swapped, 
the doctor woke up suddenly out of his coma the state, 
according to English novels, into which all elderly, fat 
Britishers sink after a full dinner. He looked around vac- 


antly for a moment, and then, without waiting for any 
break in the conversation, began ponderously: 

"One time on a P. and 0. boat down in the Red Sea 
so hot we had to stop to cool the engines . . ." 

But he got no further; the chief groaned and threw a 
biscuit at him. The purser jumped up and tied a napkin 
over his face. Everyone howled derisively. The captain 
leading, they recited in unison: 

"One time on a P. and 0. boat down in the Red Sea 
so hot we had to stop to cool the engines " 

By this time the doctor had pulled the napkin from his 
mouth, and, calling them all "bloody rotters," he relapsed 
into sullen silence. 

"What's the story?" I asked. 

"Oh, you'll hear it often enough before you reach 
Colon," the captain said. "In self-defence we can't allow 
it at dinner." 

"When he starts it," the purser put in, " 'one time on a 
P. and O. boat,' you'd better yell for assistance it's awful!" 

Then came another interruption. Suddenly all these di- 
verse Englishmen, who did not appear to be very friendly, 
were brought together with a snap. There was a sharp 
commotion on the deck above us, the growl of many angry 
voices, some high-pitched curses, and the rush of many 
feet. Then in the flash of an eye these Englishmen showed 
me why their race owns half the earth. 

"Come on, boys," the captain said, as he jumped up. 

A queer idea shot into my mind that the order which 
sent the Light Brigade charging down the hill of Balaklava 
must have sounded like that. But there was no time to 
develop the idea, for we were all running up the compan- 
ionway at top speed. 

The soft southern moonlight was shining down on some- 
thing very much like an inferno a tangle of long sinewy 


black arms ending in clenched fists, distorted black faces, 
the whites of eyes, and gleaming teeth and the low-pitched 
angry growl of a fighting mob. 

The captain's neck seemed to disappear. His head sank 
right down on his square shoulders. With a yell he led the 
charge, and all of us in white duck plunged into the black 
turmoil. Seven against seven hundred. Englishmen cer- 
tainly know how to use their fists. Every time they struck 
somebody went down. We ploughed our way along the 
deck to the storm centre. The captain gripped a man and 
shook him like a rag. We all followed his example, up to 
the limit of our strength. Personally, I felt like the tail of 
the dog, for the man whom the Fates thrust into my clutches 
was three times my strength. 

One of the laborers, waving a guitar in his hand like a 
banner, jumped on a box and yelled to the crowd to rush us. 

"Shut up," the captain snapped, "or I'll put a bullet 
into you!" 

It seemed as though every one at once saw the glint of 
his revolver. A sort of unearthly moan went up from the 
negroes. They were utterly cowed. Most of them fell on 
their faces and tried to crawl away. 

"Here, you constables," the captain called, putting up 
his revolver, "who started this muss?" 

Ten of the huskiest negroes, it seemed, had been made 
special constables. They had been discreetly absent during 
the disturbance, but now turned up trying hard to look 
heroic. They singled out two of the seven men we held 
I am sure it was an absolutely haphazard selection. With- 
out further ado, with no pretence of a trial, these two men 
were put in irons and thrown into the brig. 

Then we went back to finish our coffee and cigars. I 
asked the captain if he thought we had caught the real 


" Probably not," he said, "but what does it matter? We 
gave them a good scare. It's pretty hot down in the brig. 
We'll keep these two there a couple of hours and when they 
come out they'll be sure to exaggerate the horrors of the 
place. It will put the fear of God into all of them. Be- 
sides, it will give a good deal of prestige to the constables. 
If we had questioned their word, their authority wouldn't 
have amounted to anything. You can't temporize with 
natives, you've got to act quick even if you aren't right. 
It isn't exactly justice, but it works." 

It is this quick, fearless action and cynical disregard of ab- 
stract justice which enables England to hold the lid down on 
her colonies. I could not help questioning the morality of 
such actions, but as the captain said, "it works." I guess it 
is the inevitable ethics of empire. It had saved what was a 
very critical situation. If they had made that rush, they 
would have swept us overboard in a minute. Sooner or 
later, many of them would have been hanged for it. As 
it was, we had cracked a score of their heads, imprisoned 
two who were probably innocent. No serious harm be- 
yond injured feelings had come to any of them and order 
was restored. 

The captain himself did not feel entirely at ease, but 
I soon found that his scruples were the opposite from 

"Perhaps I ought to have shot that beggar," he said. 
"It don't do to bluff, with a crowd like that. I was in a 
muss once on the China sea a couple of hundred coolies 
as deck passengers. I don't remember what started the 
rumpus. The captain tried to bluff them" he paused to 
engender suspense " It didn't work. Before we got through 
there were three of us dead and about twenty chinks. I 
guess some of the rest are still in the penal colony. A quick 
shot might have saved it all. Keep your guns in your pock- 


ets till you have to shoot and then don't hesitate. But I 
guess this lesson will keep them quiet.' 7 

And the incident was closed. 

I began to feel an ache in my leg, and, looking down, I 
saw blood on my white trousers. During the excitement I 
had barked my shin on one of those infernal deck chairs. 
The doctor took me to his cabin to disinfect and bandage 
the wound. 

"One time on a P. and 0. boat," he began, "down in the 
Red Sea . . ." 

But the purser came along and threatened to throw the 
doctor to the sharks if he inflicted the story on me. I was 
getting quite curious about what did happen on that P. 
and O. But the doctor was too busy reviling the purser to 
finish the yarn. 

That night we ran into heavy weather, and I have never 
seen anything messier than the deck in the morning. Seven 
hundred seasick negroes are not a pretty sight, but there 
was a certain selfish joy in seeing that this storm had made 
an end of those steamer chairs. They were all smashed to 
splinters the moment we began to roll. 

"I hope," the captain said at breakfast, "that this keeps 
up. Seasickness will take the mischief out of them." 

But his wish was not granted. By noon we had run into 
a sea like a sheet of corrugated iron, just little ripples, and 
a metallic look. We were running about eleven degrees 
north, and it certainly was hot. There was not a breath 
of wind. The negroes recovered with their habitual quick- 
ness, and were in an unusually amiable mood. They 
turned out willingly to help the crew wash down the decks. 
I have never seen water evaporate so quickly. One minute 
the decks were glistening with water, the next they were 
already dry, within five minutes they were too hot to walk 
on barefooted. 


Of course these negroes were not very comfortable. But 
they were free! There are many men still living who can 
remember when slave-ships sailed these very waters. It is 
hard to imagine what life on a slave-ship must have been. 
The effort to reconstruct the horrors of those days not so 
very long past makes the inconveniences which this cargo 
of black ivory suffer seem small indeed. Above all, there 
was no one among them who was not here of his own free 
will. There was not one of them whose heart was not full 
of hope this voyage to them all meant opportunity. Think 
what it must have meant to their forefathers! Nothing 
which happened to them after they were landed and sold 
could have approached the agony of the long voyage in 
irons, thrown pell-mell into the hold of a sailing ship. Not 
knowing their captors' language, they could not know the 
fate in store for them. The world does move. 

When, in the far future, the history of our times is writ- 
ten, I think that our father's generation will be especially 
remembered because it abolished the negro slave trade. 
They invented steam-engines and all manner of machines; 
they cut down a great many trees and opened up a conti- 
nent and did other notable things. But their crowning 
glory was that they made an end of chattel-slavery. 

Until these imported negro laborers are handed over to 
the United States authorities at Colon they are under the 
paternal care of Great Britain. The conditions under which 
they have been recruited, the terms of their contracts, have 
been carefully supervised by English officials. Above all, 
their health is guarded. Their daily menus and they are 
quite sumptuous have been ordered by His Majesty's 
government in London. 

The sunset that second evening was glorious. Right over 
our bow was a pyramid of soft white clouds; the sun sink- 
ing behind them brought to light a glory of rich harmonic 


colors. The whole mass shone and glistened like the great 
thirteenth-century window in the chancel of Chartrej. 
There was gold, bright and flaming on the edges, and the 
heart of the cloud was hot orange. The sky above, clear 
across to the east, was red, a thousand, thousand shades 
of red. And the glory of the sky fell and was reflected in 
the metallic blackness of the sea. There was an Oriental 
gorgeousness about it. If one were to wave a brilliantly 
colored gold-embroidered Chinese shawl above an age-old 
lacquer tray, it would give some faint idea of the gorgeous- 
ness of this tropical sunset. 

Several of the ship's officers were on the deck watching it, 
and when at last the color faded the first officer spoke up. 

"It's strange," he said, "in these Western waters you get 
the best sunsets; the dawn is flat and not at all impressive. 
It is just the opposite in the East. The sunrises count out 

It was a new idea to me, and I asked the others if they 
had found it so. They all backed his statement, recalling 
gorgeous sunrises in the Orient, but no one could offer any 
plausible explanation of the fact, they all affirmed. 

In a moment's pause the doctor started up, "I remember 
one time on the Red Sea on the P. & 0. boat it was so 
hot " That was as far as he got. The younger men 
pulled his beard, ruffled his stray hairs, and poked his ribs 
till he went away breathing out death and destruction on 
all of them. 

Day after day we slipped along through that burnished 
sea. As a rule the negroes were cheerful and all went well 
until the last day. The night had been unspeakably close. 
It could not have been any hotter that time on the Red 
Sea the doctor tries to tell about when they had to stop 
the engines. 

I crawled out before five in the morning, hoping to get 


some air on deck. My stateroom was suffocating. Not 
one of the seven hundred negroes was asleep; they were 
fidgeting about from one unbearably hot position to an- 
other. A couple of the officers were up on the bridge 
talking in monosyllables, and I gathered that they were 
planning against the possibilities which the evident unrest 
among the negroes foretold. You read sometimes of sailors 
feeling in the air the approach of a tornado. It was just 
the same here; no one could help seeing that trouble was 
brewing. The men were like tinder. For five days they 
had been crowded on board with no chance for exercise, 
and now, the sun barely up, the deck was almost hot enough 
to fry eggs. 

The fire-hose was run out and the decks flooded to cool 
them, and the hose was left in place to cool the men if need 

There were a few scuffles during the morning, and four 
men, one after another, were ironed and chucked into the 
brig. It was a hard time for the crowd of negroes, but it 
was certainly little if any easier for the few white men. 

Trouble came with a rush over lunch. These negroes 
probably had never had such excellent meals before. But 
the fates arranged that just this last day, when every one 
was wearied and cross, things should go wrong in the 
kitchen. Perhaps the heat had affected the ccok or per- 
haps some direct rays of the sun had fallen on the rice 
anyhow, it was scorched beyond eating. 

I suppose the first fifty negroes who were served chucked 
their rice overboard when they tasted it; no one is hungry 
in such weather. But at last it came to a trouble-maker. 
He swore loudly that it was not fit for a pig, that he would 
not stand such an outrage, that the steward was making a 
fortune out of them, etc. Part of what he said was un- 
heeded, but a word here and there was taken up and passed 


along, growing, of course, from mouth to mouth. Inside of 
five minutes every negro on board felt that life without a 
good portion of unscorched rice was not worth living. A 
growl rolled back and forth from bow to stern, growing 
deeper every trip. It was what we had been dreading all 

Half our little company pushed through the angry crowd 
to the door of the kitchen, for there was some talk of rush- 
ing that. The first officer in the bow, the second officer in 
the stern, each with a negro quartermaster and two or three 
able-bodied seamen, manned the fire-hose. The rest of us 
formed a sort of reserve on the bridge. This display of 
force cooled their ardor for a minute. No one of them 
wanted to be a leader; they just groaned and growled and 
howled. Almost all of them had crowded up forward in 
the bow. The captain stepped out on the bridge and asked 
what was wrong. A hundred began yelling out their 
grievances at once. The captain he has a voice like a 
fog-horn ordered them to be still. 

"I can't understand when you all speak at once. Send 
me a delegation, three men." 

Then the negroes began to palaver. As far as I could 
see six men volunteered. They were all rejected. It was 
ten minutes before they chose their committee, and one of 
them lost his nerve just at the foot of the ladder to the 
bridge. They had to go back and get another man. Some- 
how it had a ludicrous, comic-opera effect. 

But the captain listened gravely to the committee and 
tasted the rice. He threw it overboard with a grunt of 
disgust it must have been pretty bad. He talked for a 
moment with the pale-faced steward and then stepped out 
where all the angry crowd could see him. I think with a 
good joke he might have saved the situation but the joke 
failed him. 


"I am sorry about the rice," he said; "I have tried my 
best to give you good food, and this is our last day. To- 
morrow we will be in harbor and have fresh food. This 
afternoon at three the steward will give you iced tea, and 
I will see that you have an especially good supper to-night." 

"But we want rice!" some one yelled. 

However, the captain's little speech had appealed to the 
common sense of most of the crowd, and only a few took 
up this cry. But things suddenly took another turn. There 
were on board some deck passengers who were not contract 
laborers several families of negroes. And one girl she did 
not look above eighteen I had already noted as a source 
of trouble. During the captain's speech the three delegates 
had climbed down to the deck unobserved and were lost in 
the crowd. Suddenly, just when things were seeming to 
smooth out, this girl jumped on a trunk and began to 
scream : 

"Where's our committee? They've put them into the 
black hole!" 

She yelled a lot more, but no one could hear her because 
of the cry which went up from the mob. Her words were 
like a whip. In an instant the crowd would be moving. 
The captain put his hands to his mouth as a megaphone 
and bellowed to the chief officer: 

"Stand by with the hose!" 

"Ay, ay, sir!" the response came back. 

"Now, gentlemen," he said to us, "we must shut up that 

I saw his hand go to his hip pocket, and suddenly I re- 
membered the story he had told about the coolies in the 
China Sea, and it did not seem like comic opera any more. 

He took a step forward to jump down into the maddened 
crowd on deck. Then help came from an unexpected 
source. The captain's shouted order and the reply which 


rang back had quieted the crowd for an instant. It had 
not pacified them, but they had stopped their shouting to 
gather breath for fight. And just in this lull a new voice 
rose or rather fell. It was from the lookout in the crow's 

"Land ho!" he sang out. "Land on the port bow-ow!" 

It saved the day. Two or three on the outskirts of the 
mob ran to the rail for a look. "Land!" they shouted. 
Of course they could not see it; it was not yet visible from 
the bridge, barely in sight from the crow's nest, but equally 
of course they thought they could. The crowd melted 
away instantly; every one wanted to see land. Each 
cloud on the southern horizon, one after another, was picked 
out as South America. When a baby bumps his nose and 
you stop his crying by barking like a dog, it is the same 
thing. The excitement of "Land ho!" had made them for- 
get the scorched rice. 

"Anglo-Saxon luck," the captain said to me. 

By three o'clock, when the iced tea came out, the moun- 
tain tops of Colombia were in plain sight and everybody 
was happy. They were further distracted from mischief 
about five o'clock when the wheel was thrown hard over 
and we turned south. We were close inland now, and the 
ground swell was choppy; most of them were seasick again. 
We dropped anchor a little after sunset and they began to 

There were more formalities with the health officers in 
the morning. Everybody had his temperature taken and 
was re-examined for trachoma. Those whose vaccination 
had not "taken," went through that ordeal again. And 
then these seven hundred negroes scattered over the Isth- 
mus to help us dig the ditch. 

Although they are not interested in anything but their 
dollar a day, I warrant that their children's children will 



boast that their grandfathers worked on this job. And I 
wonder what their children's children will be like. These 
men are free, their grandfathers were slaves. That is im- 
mense progress for a race to make in two generations! If 
their children and grandchildren keep up the pace there is 
great hope for the negroes. 

Just as I was going down the gang-plank, the doctor 
nagged me. 

"One time on a P. and O. boat down in the Red 
Sea . . ." 

But I was too eager to be ashore to hear him out. 



IT was good to land at Colon and see some workaday 
Americans. For a month I had been among the carefully 
dressed Britishers of the colonies. It was a joy to see men 
in flannel shirts and khaki, mud up to their knees, grime on 
their hands, sweat on their brow men who were working 
like galley slaves in a poisonous climate, digging the biggest 
ditch on earth, and proud of it. 

Colon is a nondescript sort of place; there are docks and 
railway yards and Chinese lotteries and Spanish restaurants 
and an "Astor House" which reminds one much more of 
Roaring Camp than of Broadway. There are many mining 
towns near the Mexican border which one might well mis- 
take for Colon. 

One of the Panama Railway steamers had come in during 
the morning, bringing mail and newspapers from home and a 
number of the Canal employees back from their leave in 
" the States." One of them attracted my attention; he was 
standing on the railway platform among a group in khaki 
who had come down from their work to welcome him back. 
They were asking him endless questions about "God's 
country" and making much sport of his " store clothes," 
and especially of some Nile-green socks. He pulled up his 
trousers and strutted about pretending to be vastly proud 
of them, but it was easy to see that he was keen to be back 
in his work clothes. Their "joshing" was a bit rough, but 
good-natured. For they are a free-and-easy lot. these 



modern frontiersmen of ours, undismayed by the odds 
against them. 

The Panama Railway is our first experiment in Govern- 
ment ownership; and, as it is always enjoyable to see some- 
thing accomplished which people have for a long time 
thought impossible, it was a pleasure to see what a thor- 
oughly good railway it is. 

An old college friend met me at the dock, and, after we 
had looked over the railway, took me out to his quarters. 
The boundary of the Canal Zone runs through the city of 
Colon, and the American side of the line is called Cristo- 
bal. Many of the houses were built by the old French 
company, but the camp has grown, since the American 
occupation. All those who work for the Canal Commis- 
sion are given quarters free of charge ; and they are very 
good quarters. Some of the bachelors have single rooms, 
sometimes two have a double room together. There are 
broad, shaded porches about all the American buildings, 
and every living-place is guarded with mosquito gauze. 
The quarters are allotted on a regular scale of so many 
square feet of floor space to every hundred dollars of salary. 
The employees are infinitely more comfortable than in any 
other construction camp I have ever seen. The furniture 
is ample: table and Morris chairs and comfortable beds. 
Everything is wonderfully clean. There are abundant 
baths for every one, and of course the sanitary arrangements 
are perfect. The bachelor quarters would compare favor- 
ably with the ordinary college dormitory. 

We did not have time to inspect any of the married men's 
quarters before our train left for Panama, but my friend 
tells me that they are even more pleasant than his. Two 
minutes out from Christobel the train jumps into the jun- 
gle. And this jungle is one of the things which defeated 
de Lesseps. The engineering problems which face us are 


practically the same as those which the French tackled; of 
course, we have better machinery and more money. But 
one of our greatest advantages is W. C. Gorgas, chief sani- 
tary officer of the Canal Zone. He is the army doctor who 
cleaned up Havana. He had a much harder job on the 
Isthmus. Even to the layman who knows no more than I 
of anopheles and stegomyia, the excessively heavy vegetation 
of the jungle looks threateningly sinister. It is Colonel 
Gorgas who has pulled its teeth. My friend tells me that 
there has not been a case of yellow fever on the Zone for three 
and a half years. And to-day there are only a quarter 
as many men in the hospital with the dreaded Chagres 
fever as there were in 1906. The health statistics of the 
Zone compare favorably with those of any of our home 

There was a motley crowd on our train. In the second 
class carriage there were merry West Indian negroes, sullen 
Spanish and light-hearted Italian laborers. I noticed espe- 
cially a seat full of Martinique women their gaudy, elabo- 
rate turbans would mark them anywhere. Close beside 
them were some East Indian coolies men with Caucasian 
features and ebony skin. They wear queer little em- 
broidered caps; it is all that is left of their native costume. 
The faces of some of them are remarkably fine and intel- 
lectual. There was also a fair sprinkling of Chinese. 

Most noticeable in my carriage was a group of Pana- 
manian women, darker skinned than the women of Spain, 
but still keeping many characteristics of the mother land. 
My friend called them "spiggoty" women, and then told 
me that "spiggoty" is Zone slang for anything native, be- 
cause in the early days the Panamanians, when addressed, 
used to reply, "No spiggoty Inglis." 

Most of the first-class passengers, however, were Ameri- 
cans, Some were evidently of the Administration their 


soft hands and clean clothes marked them. And I imagine 
that they are rather looked down upon by the "men on the 
line," the civil and mechanical engineers, who swagger 
about, plainly proud of the marks of toil. And there are 
women too clean-cut American girls, just such as you 
would see on a train leading into a co-education college 

"Gatun!" the conductor calls. 

Gatun and Culebra are, I suppose, the two Isthmian 
names most known in the States. My friend pointed out 
to me the toes of the great dam. But it isn't a dam they 
are building; it is a mountain range. It is to be half 
a mile wide and a mile and a half long, high enough to 
hold the water up to a level of eighty-five feet above the 
sea. They have barely commenced work on this great 
wall, but it already presents a suggestion of its future mas- 
siveness which makes the newspaper sensations about its 
inadequacy a joke. How could a wall fifteen times as wide 
as it is high fall over? There are some chronic critics who 
say that the water will leak through it. But this dam is 
only a part of the wall of hills which will hold in the great 
lake. And why this specially prepared hill should be more 
porous than the others, which nature has thrown together 
haphazard, is more than I can see. 

From Gatun the train goes through territory which is to 
be the lake. For twenty-three miles the ships will cross 
this artificial lake to Culebra Cut. Never before has man 
dreamed of taking such liberties with nature, of making 
such sweeping changes in the geographical formation of a 
country. Here are we Americans dropping down into the 
heart of a jungle of unequaled denseness, building a young 
mountain, balancing a lake of 160 odd square miles on the 
top of the continental divide, gouging out a canon 10 miles 
long, 300 feet wide, and in some places over 250 feet deep. 


Think about that for a minute and then be proud that 
you are an American. 

All the technical things my friend told me about millions 
of yards of subaqueous excavation, and so forth, meant 
nothing to me. But looking out of the car window mile 
after mile as we passed through what is soon to be the bed 
of this artificial lake, I caught some faint idea of the magni- 
tude of the project. 

"Look!" my friend cried suddenly. "See that machine 
it looks like a steam crane it is a track-shifter. Invented 
by one of our engineers. You see, on the dumps, where 
we throw out the spoil from the cuts, we have to keep shifting 
the tracks to keep the top of the dump level. Well, it took 
an awful lot of time to do it by hand. So we developed 
that machine. It just takes hold of a section of track, rails 
and ties and all, hoists it up out of its ballast, and swings it 
over to where we want it. Does in an hour what a gang of 
twenty men could not do in a week. They're not used much 
anywhere else in the world. You see, there isn't any other 
place where they have to shift track on so large a scale." 

They seem vastly proud of this track-shifter down here. 

"And this is Gorgona," he said, a minute later. "Those 
shops over there are the largest of their kind in the world 
repairing machinery. We can mend anything in there from 
a locomotive to a watch-spring." 

One gets tired of this "largest in the world" talk. But 
it is only as you accustom yourself to the idea that each 
integral part of the work is of unequaled proportions that 
you begin to sense the grandeur of the whole undertaking. 
The largest dam, the highest locks, the greatest artificial 
lake, the deepest cut, the biggest machine shops, the heaviest 
consumption of dynamite, the most wonderful sanitary 
system all these and others which I forget are unique the 
top point of human achievement. After an hour of this 


talk I gained a new respect for Uncle Sam. a new respect 
for his children who have conceived and are executing this 
gigantic thing. 

The whistle blew in the shops at Gorgona as we pulled 
into the station, and there was a rush for places in the 
train. Four men just from their work tumbled into the 
double seat before me. Fine fellows they were, despite the 
yellow malarial tinge of their skin and the grimy sweat 
which ran in little rivulets down their sooty faces. The 
hands with which they brushed off the beads of perspiration 
were black and greasy from their work. They wore no 
coats, and their shirts, wringing wet, stuck close to their 
backs, and the play of their muscles as they relaxed after 
the day's strain showed as plainly as if they had been nude. 
I tried to follow their conversation which was very earn- 
est but could not, as it was all about some new four- 
cylinder engine with a mysterious kind of alternate action. 

A few miles farther down the line we came to Empire. 
The scene on the platform recalled a suburban station on 
some line out of New York, for, except a few Chinamen 
and Spaniards, the crowd was just the same as that which 
comes down to meet the commuters on an evening train 
after the work-day is over. One group caught my atten- 
tion. A young mother of thirty, in the crispest, whitest 
lawn, was holding a baby. Beside her stood a sister, like 
a Gibson summer girl. The younger woman held by the 
hand a little lad of four with Jeanne d'Arc hair, bare legs, 
a white Russian tunic, and a black belt. Fresh from the 
bath-tub they looked, all four of them. And while I was 
admiring the picture they made and wondering at the 
strange chance which had brought such a New Jersey group 
down here under the equator the mother's face lighted up 
and she waved her hand. Two of those grimy men who had 
sat before me swung off the steps of the car and came 


towards them. One was the father. Holding his hands 
stiffly behind him so as not to soil anything, he bent for- 
ward and kissed his wife. Then, one after the other, the 
children were held up to him for a kiss. The other man, 
somewhat younger, took off his battered hat with a gallant 
sweep to the sister. He greeted her as formally as if it had 
been Easter Sunday on Fifth Avenue. Neither of them 
seemed to realize that he looked like a coal miner. They 
loitered behind as they went up the hill to the quarters. 
He walked as close to her white skirt as he dared, and had 
something very serious to say to her, for they laughed just 
as Americans do when they are talking earnestly. 

It is between Gorgona and Empire that you get your first 
look into Culebra Cut. It is as busy a place as an anthill. 
It seems to be alive with machinery; there are, of course, 
men in the cut too, but they are insignificant, lost among 
the mechanical monsters which are jerking work-trains 
about the maze of tracks, which are boring holes for the 
blasting, which are tearing at the spine of the continent 
steam shovels which fill a car in five moves, steam shovels 
as accurate and delicate as a watch, as mighty Well, I 
can think of nothing sufficiently mighty to compare with 
these steel beasts which eat a thousand cubic yards a day 
out of the side of the hills. 

But it is not till you get beyond the cut and, looking 
back, see the profile of the ditch against the sunset that you 
get the real impression the memory which is to last. The 
scars on the side of the cut are red, like the rocks of our great 
Western deserts. The work has stopped, and the great 
black shovels are silhouetted against the red of the sky. 
Then there comes a moment, as your train winds round a 
curve, when the lowering sun falls directly into the notch 
of the cut and it is all illumined in an utterly unearthly 


The night falls rapidly in the tropics, and when, a few 
minutes later, we reached Panama, it was too dark to see 
anything of the quaint old city, so we drove at once to 
Ancon, the American suburb, and put up at the Tivoli, the 
Government hotel. It was a lucky chance which brought 
me there on that day, as I saw a phase of life which I might 
otherwise have missed. A couple of dozen Congressmen 
had come down on an unofficial visit to the Zone, so that 
when they got back to Washington and anything was said 
about the Canal they could jump up and contradict it, and 
say, "I know, because I've been there." It is safe to say 
that the men on the Isthmus are more afraid of Congress- 
men than they are of yellow fever mosquitoes. The Canal 
Commission has its plans all worked out; if Congress will 
grant them the money and leave them alone -the Canal 
will be built on schedule time. Yet not only their personal 
reputations, but, what is much more important, the success 
of the work, is utterly at the mercy of Congress. Several 
bills are presented in each session which, if passed, would 
seriously cripple the work. And these bills must be acted 
upon by men who know little or nothing of engineering. 
When the men down here have nightmares, it is not of hob- 
goblins they dream, but of Congressmen. I certainly hope 
that the average of intelligence in the House is higher than 
among the Representatives I saw at the Tivoli. At the 
table next to mine, when the waiter put some ice in his 
glass, I heard a Congressman ask how much of the ice on 
the Isthmus was artificial. I could see the face of the man 
who was doing the honors. He deserves a medal for the 
serious way in which he explained that in the tropics all 
ice is artificial. I overheard some others discussing sani- 

"You can never make me believe/' said one, "that a 
mosquito bite can give a man yellow fever." 


"I don't know," another replied. "But even if it is true, 
four million dollars is an awful lot to spend killing them." 

My friend told me that one of the Congressmen, when he 
was shown the site of the locks at Gatun, became wildly 
indignant and said he thought that Congress had decided 
on a sea-level canal. 

And these men will go home and make speeches, out of 
their copious ignorance, on the floor of the House, and, 
what is worse, among their constituents, where there is 
some chance of their being believed. And after every mis- 
statement they will say, impressively, "I know, because 
I've been there." 

After the dinner I found that a ball was to be given in 
honor of the Congressmen. The day's work was over, and 
even the presence of the critics from home could not keep 
the employees from having a good time. The parlor of the 
Tivoli makes as fine a ball-room as any I know. And a 
prettier, daintier crowd of women I have never seen. Hot 
water and grit soap had been busy on the men, and the 
scene, except that some of the men were in white, looked 
like a college dance. I was especially pleased to see the 
young couple I had noticed down the line. I never would 
have recognized the man if I had not seen him dancing with 
the girl. Cleaned and polished, with an orchid on the lapel 
of his dinner-coat, he looked about as different from the 
grimy young engineer of five o'clock as could well be im- 

It was rather a shock, when I went to my room and 
looked out of the window, to find the moon rising out of 
the Pacific Ocean. There are not many places on the 
American continent where this phenomenon is to be seen. 
Of course, by looking at the map, you can see that the 
Isthmus is like a letter S, with Colon, the Atlantic terminus 
of the Canal, west of Panama on the Pacific; but somehow 


it did not reconcile me to the confusion of directions. It 
took some time to accustom myself to looking eastward to 
see the Western Ocean. 

I turned in with an unusual sense of satisfaction. The 
two big impressions that first day on the Isthmus had given 
me were: First, the sublime confidence of the men the 
absence of any doubt as to eventual achievement. "Of 
course we'll dig the ditch." And, second, the esprit de corps 
implied in the "we" of that expression. I did not hear 
any one talk of what he as an individual was doing. Nor 
did I hear any one tell of what "they" were doing it is 
always "we." An ink-stained clerk from the Department 
of Civil Administration, who never had any more intimate 
connection with a steam shovel than I have, said to me 
boastfully: "Well, we knocked the top off the record for 
dry excavation again this month." It is what Maeterlinck 
calls "the Spirit of the Hive." 

For a people with such undaunted confidence and this 
trick of pulling together there is no limit to achievement. 



HAVING once crossed the Isthmus to Panama City there 
is very little in Colon to call one back except the boats 

There is nothing distinctive about Colon. There are a 
dozen towns scattered along the Caribbean Sea which are 
similarly unattractive. It has much better health now-a- 
days than its neighboring rivals but there are no " tourist 
possibilities" in a Sanitary Record. 

However, if you must go there, you will find a broad, 
well-paved street with shipping docks on one side cutting 
off the sea breeze and on the other a fairly regular sequence 
of chances to change your money to native currency, to 
buy a drink, a picture post-card, a Chinese curio, a lottery 
ticket change your money and so on. The saloons are 
the most ambitious enterprises of Front Street. Two of 
them boast of "lady orchestras" and one advertises a 
"Palm Room." 

The shipping business is of course immense. French, 
German, English and American passenger boats call regu- 
larly. And I doubt if there is a flag afloat which does not 
sometimes visit Colon on a freighter. The trans-shipping 
of cargoes to and from the Pacific makes a great show of 

But in all this the natives of the Isthmus have little part 
or interest. When I last came down on a Hamburg-Ameri- 
can boat, we picked up a deck-crew of negroes at one of the 
West India islands. 



The Panamanian be he gentleman in fine white linen or 
peon in part of a pair of overalls sits languorously in the 
shade of a palm tree or a packing case and drowsily watches 
the rush of modern commerce goods manufactured abroad, 
carried in foreign bottoms, handled by alien crews, put on an 
American railroad. Of the millions of dollars, pounds ster- 
ling, francs, marks which pass through his country, what 
little sticks in transit goes to Chinese merchants and Yankee 
saloon keepers. 

Doubtless the Lord could have made a less ambitious peo- 
ple than the natives of Colon but doubtless He never did. 

There is a certain amount of historic interest in the very 
unimposing monument to the founders of the Panama 
Railroad. There is some charming surprise in the little 
stone church, built by the railroad for its employees a bit 
of Suburban Gothic. The lack of the ivy which will not 
grow in these parts makes it look forlorn and homesick. 
And there is much surpassing beauty in the sea view from 
the Washington Hotel a broad lawn, a file of cocoa palms 
and the roaring surf. The cocoanut palm is one of the most 
strikingly frequent as it is one of the most lovable features 
of the tropics. Their charm, I think, lies in their extreme 
individualism. Even in what they call a "cocoanut grove," 
each palm stands out alone. They have no social ties are 
absolutely unconventional. Each has its peculiar list and 
its unique way of swaying. And there is no tree which 
combines so well with the sea. 

Panama City across the continent, but only two hours 
away is a different proposition from Colon. 

Near the railroad station the main street is distressingly 
like Colon for its sequence of business opportunities. But 
beyond the Calle 8, which like the Paris boulevards used to 
be a mighty fortification, you enter a city which has per- 
sonality. Just to the left of what used to be the Land 


Gate there was a moat and drawbridge in the old days 
stands the Church of Nuestra Senora de la Merced. It 
dates from the end of. the seventeenth century and is the 
second oldest church in the city. To a large extent Panama 
has been Hausmannized by the American sanitary engi- 
neers. Streets have been graded and straightened and 
paved, disease infected shacks have been demolished. Still 
many crooked streets and picturesque bits remain. 

No matter how short one's stop in the city a visit to the 
"Sea Wall" should not be omitted. This is the best rem- 
nant of the old fortifications. And there was nothing the 
Spanish colonial administrations did on a more imposing 
scale than fort building. These cost so much that the 
Spanish king is reported to have said that they ought to 
be visible from his palace in Madrid. 

When the tide is in it rises twenty feet the waves wash 
the foot of the old wall. There is a waist-high parapet on 
top and within it a broad cement promenade. If you walk 
heavily the prisoners in the cells below can hear your foot- 
steps. On the land side you can look down into the prison 
yard. It is distressing enough as are prison yards the 
world over. Further inland you see a strange skyline 
ancient church towers decorated with mother-of-pearl, and 
modern corrugated iron roofs. It is a comfort to know 
that the ugliest part of the American town of Ancon will 
soon disappear. 

But seaward the view is by itself worth the long voyage. 
Up the coast to your right is Balboa the Pacific entrance 
to the Canal. It is a busy, smoky place of tugs and dredges, 
machine-shops and the West Coast steamers. Close in 
shore are the three little islands of Naos, Flemengo and 
Culebra. It is this group which Congress has decided to 
fortify. Farther out you see the larger and more beautiful 
Taboga. The geologists say that these islands were the 


side outlets of the great prehistoric volcano whose principal 
core made Ancon hill, back of Panama. 

Straight out before you is the blue Pacific it knows how 
to be bluer than the Atlantic ever dreamed of. 

To your left the peaks of the Cordilleras which the Canal 
pierces at its lowest divide rise higher and higher to east- 
ward. It is only a question of the clearness of the atmos- 
phere how far you can see them. The coast an alterna- 
tion of white sand beach and mangrove swamp swings 
around Panama Bay towards Cape Brava and the Pearl 
Islands. It was down there somewhere towards the edge 
of the horizon where Europeans first saw the Pacific from 
America. There is a hill within the Canal Zone, which 
rumor says was the eminence from which Balboa first saw 
the sea it is stated as a fact in Nelson's "Five Years in 
Panama" but the records show conclusively that Balboa 
crossed the Isthmus much further to the east. 

If the sun is at just the right angle to bring out the con- 
trast between gray and green you can see the ruins of Old 
Panama from the Sea Wall. All that the Buccaneer Mor- 
gan left on end in the old metropolis was the tower of the 
church of Saint Anastasius. The weather beaten gray 
stones are surrounded and overgrown by tropical vegeta- 
tion. It is more than hard to see from a distance unless 
one knows exactly where to look. 

There are two times when the Sea Wall is at its best. 
Just at sun-down the breathing time in the tropics it 
generally offers as good an opportunity to observe the 
people of Panama as one can get in a short stay. The 
stroll on the fortifications is as necessary an apertitif for 
some of the natives as an absinthe is for a Parisian. 

But the superlative time to enjoy the Sea Wall is on a 
night of the dry season. The full February moon coming 
up out of the sea is something to hold in the memory along- 


side of Rubens' Venus of the Hermitage or the Taj Mahal 
things which one must travel far to see and having seen 
have not lived wholly in vain. By day the horizon seems 
very far away, but when the moon slips up over it at night, 
it seems almost within speaking distance. 

Hardly less glorious are the moonless nights. Canopus 
and Eldeberon and the Southern Cross all the stars which 
Stevenson loved so well burn so close and so brilliantly, 
that you hold your breath in wonder that you are not 
scorched by their heat. 

All the literature of the tropics is full of expressions of 
wonder at how they once seen call you, till like Kip- 
ling's Tommy Atkins, "y u can't heed nothing else." They 
speak meaningly of the discomforts, the heat, the filth, the 
smells, the vermin, the innumerable diseases, and are sur- 
prised that people who have escaped always want to some- 
times do come back. I think the nights the moon and 
the stars explain it. 

The Cathedral Plaza, in the center of the city, is also a 
place of interest and some beauty of foliage. It has never 
seemed to me that the Spaniards knew anything particu- 
larly worth while about architecture except what they 
learned from the Moors. Their architects in the American 
colonies seem to have forgotten most of that. There are 
no beautiful dwellings nor public buildings. But some of 
the churches are impressive and interesting from their 

The Cathedral for instance was built from the private 
purse of a Bishop of Panama, whose father, a freed negro 
slave, burned charcoal on the side of Ancon Hill and ped- 
dled it on his back in the streets of the city as one may 
see the peons doing to-day. The Episcopal See of Panama 
is the oldest on the American continent. The first church 
was built in a temporary colony on the Atlantic side 


Santa Maria de la Antiqua del Darien. The seat of the 
Bishopric, however, was soon changed to Old Panama and 
no trace of the earlier settlement is left. This bishop was 
the first of negro blood in America and probably the first 
of native birth to wear the mitre. Although it was started 
long before, the cathedral was not completed until 1760. 

Its most unique architectural feature is the mother-of- 
pearl decoration on the crowns of the two towers. Next in 
value to the Peruvian wealth which flowed across the 
Isthmus, came the pearl trade from the islands off San 
Miguel Bay. The roofs of the towers were covered with 
fine red cement in which were embedded pearl shells from 
the fisheries. Even after all these years, when the sun 
breaks out after a shower which has washed the dust from 
the shells, they sparkle and flash like great jewels. They 
can be seen far out at sea like some giant heliograph and are 
mentioned as a landmark in some of the old books on navi- 

In the days when the cathedral was building the See of 
Panama was one of the richest in the world. Votive offer- 
ings of priceless pearls tradition speaks of one as big as an 
apple ingots of gold and silver were offered by the hardy 
and devout rapscallion adventurers of the day. Among 
other treasures the cathedral boasted an authentic Madonna 
by Murillo. What became of all these riches when the 
property of the church was sold by the State has never 
been satisfactorily explained by the officials involved. The 
lost Murillo has probably rotted away forgotten in some 

The oldest church in the city is that of San Felipe Neri. 
The keystone of its entrance arch is dated 1688. It is 
close to the Plaza Bolivar. Although little of its exterior 
is visible having been built about by a girls' school it is 
well worth a visit. It shows how, in the buccaneer days, 


the Spaniards trusted in God and built their church walls 
to resist a siege. San Felipe near the Sea Gate, and La 
Merced at the Land Gate, were redoubtable fortresses. 

The Church of San Francisco on the Plaza Bolivar has 
been very little restored and probably stands to-day more 
nearly as it was built than any of the old churches. It was 
completed about 1740. Its old cloisters have been revised 
and turned into the College de la Salle by the Congregation 
of Christian Brothers. But the ancient convent has been 
torn down. The Sisters of St. Francis led a life not unlike 
that of the modern Trappist Monks severe in the extreme. 
Once the door had closed on them they never left the Con- 
vent. After the religious orders were expelled, the halls 
hallowed by the sanctity of these devoted women were 
turned into a theatre. And there La divine Sarah cast her 
spells when she visited the Isthmus in the eighties. It was 
an experience which she has probably never forgotten. 
For she entirely upset the heart of one of Panama's leading 
Chinese merchants. This bizarre Celestial expressed his 
sentimental crisis by touching off an immense package of 
fire-crackers. The play was I believe "La dame aux 
camilles" and the scene in which Bernhardt dies so ex- 
quisitely came to an abrupt and hysterical end. 

San Domingo is the best of the ruins. Tradition has it 
that the Dominican monks planned and built their own 
church. They had trouble with the arch near the front 
entrance which supported the organ loft. The first one fell 
as soon as the supports were removed. Again they built it, 
and again it fell. The same thing happened a third time. 
Then they decided that there was something wrong with 
their plan. Another monk, who was not supposed to be an 
engineer nor an architect, had a dream and produced a new 
plan. When the arch for a fourth time was completed and 
the supports were about to be withdrawn, the designer stood 


Copyright by Fishbaugh. 



under it, with folded arms staking not only his reputation 
as a dreamer but also his life on his inspired arch. It stood. 
And a most wonderful arch it is. It is almost flat, and is 
absolutely unique. A somewhat similar arch copied from 
it, but not so long can be seen in the Church of San Fran- 
cisco. San Domingo as well as most of the city was 
destroyed by fire in 1737. There is nothing left now except 
the walls and this marvellous arch. If you ask any of the 
canal engineers whether the earthquakes are likely to dis- 
turb their work they will show you the ruins of San Domingo 
where this flat arch has stood without any lateral support 
for nearly three centuries. 

The ruins of the old Jesuit College which was destroyed 
by the same fire of 1737 are mostly torn down or built 
about. The chapel where these devoted missionaries wor- 
shipped is now used as a cow-shed. But some very inter- 
esting concrete decorations can still be seen. 

The only other old churches are San Jose", on the western 
sea wall, and Santa Ana, Without-the- Walls. The latter 
was built as a thank offering for some long forgotten piece 
of good luck which befell El Conte de Santa Ana a roys- 
tering grandee of the old days. It has an interesting altar 
service of hammered silver at least two hundred years old, 
and as like as not made from some of Pizarro's Peruvian 

There is an unpleasant side to Panama City. It is 
hinted at in the current witticism that "the Republic of 
Panama is the Redlight District of the Canal Zone." It is 
of course a gross exaggeration and an undeserved insult to 
the people of the country. The American authorities have 
passed laws and are able to enforce them in the Canal 
Zone against gambling and vice. In the territory of Pan- 
ama there are neither so strict laws nor so rigid enforcement. 
In the two cities of Colon and Panama there are sections 


and they are the sections nearest to the American territory 
which are given over to debauchery. With thirty thou- 
sand men employed on the Canal, and easy transportation 
along the line, there is as might be expected a Saturday 
night emigration across the border to the jurisdiction where 
the Ten Commandments are not so effectively backed up 
by the police. But on the whole the amount of red paint 
which is smeared over the Republic of Panama by the 
Canal employees is surprisingly small. 

As in most Latin- American countries the lottery is an 
established institution. It runs on a government franchise, 
a certain percentage goes to public charity. It rents its 
offices from the Bishop of Panama they are in the ground 
floor of the Episcopal Palace. It is strictly "honest" and 
so heavily mulcted by the authorities that the stockholders 
do not get the extravagant dividends one would suppose 
from estimating the chances. 

The roulette wheels of the French days have given place 
to " poker rooms." They are no longer licensed by the gov- 
ernment but are still an unmitigated disgrace. The saying 
goes that " a sucker is born every minute." Having watched 
one of these games a few minutes, I have decided that 
most of the "suckers" grow up to what looks like man- 
hood and come to the Isthmus. In these "poker rooms" 
the "house rakeoff" is so high that a filled table is said to 
net the proprietor $15.00 gold an hour. This is sure in- 
come, "the house" gets it no matter who wins. And it is 
practically impossible to make up your own table. Some 
of the "house professionals" notorious sharpers are sure 
to "sit in." 

The psychology of the men who buck such a game is 
beyond me. I doubt if there is an American on the Isth- 
mus who is not entirely convinced that they are crooked. 
Yet the tables are generally full. 


A much pleasanter side of Panama life are the Sunday 
night band concerts in the Cathedral Plaza. The music is 
sometimes surprisingly good. And the square always 
picturesque with its tropical plants is crowded with the 
youth and beauty of the Republic. Some of the senoritas 
in spite of their very dark skins are well worth turning to 
look at. They stroll around the little park with their rather 
fat mammas, followed at a respectful distance by their 
admirers. A Panamanian lover is a faithful swain and 
easily satisfied. I watched one young fellow follow his lady 
eight times around the square. At every turn she looked 
back and smiled at him. Mamma elaborately pretended 
to ignore this passionate pursuit. The young people did 
not speak to each other, and if they managed to exchange 
notes they were mighty clever at it. 

Courtship is a long-distance affair. Most of the houses 
in the city are two-storied with stores downstairs. After 
following his lady-love from the Sunday night parade in 
the Plaza, the young hopeful takes up his position on the 
sidewalk opposite her home. If he has found favor in her 
sight she eventually appears on the balcony. The length 
of time she keeps him waiting depends on her heart beats 
if they are rapid she comes quickly. Of course their con- 
versation is decidedly limited by, (1) the distance, (2) the 
neighbors, and, (3) mamma who sits in a rocking chair and 
listens. About all the lovers can do is to smile at each 
other. If the young man stands under her window on 
other nights than Sunday, she has a right to consider that 
he is serious. And if he ever shows up in the afternoons, 
the neighbors know she has him safely hooked. 

Just before Lent Panama drapes itself in bunting. These 
Latin-American neighbors of ours dearly love a fiesta. And 
the Carnival is the greatest of them all. 

Weeks before Mardi Gras, the shops begin to display 


masks and to advertise confetti. But the preliminary 
interest centers in the election of the Queen. The rivalry 
is high. And the election generally goes to a daughter of 
wealth, for the tickets have to be paid for. The last night 
of the contest the respective papas go down in their pockets 
as far as they can afford to often farther. To have your 
daughter in the running is said to be almost as great a 
financial misfortune as to have your bank fail. As usual 
politics gets into it, and towards the last the contest generally 
sifts down to two, one of the Conservative and one of the 
Liberal party. It strikes an outsider as a rather unro- 
mantic, sordid way of choosing a carnival queen. But the 
winner the year I was there was pretty enough to satisfy 
anyone. And she looked so radiantly happy, that I am 
quite sure she did not realize that the " honor" had cost 
her father close to five thousand dollars and that she might 
have had a very nice motor-car instead. 

The gayety lasts four days. The wealthy young men 
spend their time on horseback, their sisters in carriages. 
The costumes they get up are always gorgeous, sometimes 

The women of the poorer classes content themselves with 
the native costume the pollera. It is a very full and 
flouncy skirt, and a waist, cut extremely low. The articles 
de luxe are the side-combs, which are gorgeous. And many 
of the women have red or white flowers in their hair. Some 
of them giant fire-flies. Almost any sort of a gown can 
look attractive on an attractive woman and that is about 
all one can say in favor of the pollera. The men of the 
poorer classes go in for the fantastic and hideous. 

Mr. Bidwell in his "The Isthmus of Panama" quotes an 
amusing bit from the letter of a French maid whom his wife 
had brought to Panama. In writing to a friend at home, 
she said: "II y'a d present tout plein de masques dans les 


rues, comme d Paris, pendant le Carnival, seulement qu' 
igi ce sont des vilains negres qui n'ont pas besoin de masques 
pour faire peur" (the streets are full of maskers, just as in 
Paris during the Carnival, only here they are villainous 
negroes who have no need of masks to frighten one). 

The dress-parade is in the Cathedral Plaza. The fun 
fast and furious is in the Plaza de Santa Ana. There is a 
very pretty ball at the Hotel Central, presided over by the 
Queen and her Maidens-in-waiting, and a much noisier ball 
at the Metropole. 

The confetti flies for four days and nights and you do not 
get it out of your hair and clothes till Lent is half over. 

Panama is also far ahead of Colon as a commercial city. 
It is the central market for all the native products, except 
bananas, and is the distributing point for the entire 
Isthmus. But here again the real natives have little in- 
terest in business. There are several families with German 
or Jewish names, who have lived here several generations 
and are citizens of the Republic. They, with the Chinese, 
control most of the trade and banking. There are several 
capable business men of the Arosomena and Arrias families, 
mostly occupied in real estate ventures and trading with the 
Indians. But on the whole the Panamanian gentlemen go 
in for politics or diplomacy. After all, there are not so very 
many of them and there is an endless number of places where 
a consul could be sent. There is more than one consulate 
which never collected a fee. The Liberal party is now in 
power, so of course some of the Conservatives have to 

There are two classes of Americans exclusive of the 
Canal men to be found in Panama City: Pirates and 

The first are undoubtedly most numerous. Their activi- 
ties run the gamut from playing stud-poker "for the house" 


to promoting fake development companies. It is certainly 
more livable in the States because they are here but it is 
hard on the Panamanians. 

There are, however, a few earnest, upright Americans 
here, who foresee the time when the riches of the country 
will be needed and utilized. That there are opportunities 
especially in agriculture and grazing and lumbering no one 
who knows the country will deny. 

No American can visit either Colon or Panama without a 
large patriotic pride in the work of our sanitary engineers. 
These cities not so many years ago were called the worst 
pest-holes in the Americas. Our men have built water- 
works, put plumbing into the dwelling houses, dug drains 
and sewers, paved the streets and established so effective a 
quarantine at both ports, that although there has never 
been a time when some of the South American ports were 
not infected, there have been no cases of yellow-fever, 
beri-beri, cholera or the plague on the Isthmus for several 
years. There are few places at home so much like Spotless 
Town as these two tropical cities. 




THE Republic of Panama is 425 miles long and averages 
70 miles in width. Its most southern point is a little above 
7 degrees north of the equator, its northern point about 
9 50'. It is in the same latitude as Ceylon and Mindanao. 
It is almost due south of Buffalo. 

It must be remembered that when Balboa discovered the 
Pacific, he christened it the Southern Sea, for the Isthmus 
runs east and west. Every new arrival gets the points of 
the compass twisted, because of the habit of thinking of 
the Pacific as a western ocean. Panama City is south and 
east of Colon, the Atlantic entrance of the Canal. In 
Panama the sun rises out of the Pacific. 

The land frontiers of the Republic are less than 400 miles 
in the total and are about equally divided between the 
Costa Rican and Colombian border. But the total coast 
line is over 1200 miles, 700 of which is on the Pacific. 

The most important physical feature of the Isthmus is 
that here the great chain of mountains, which form the 
backbone of the hemisphere from Alaska to Patagonia 
breaks down into scattered hills and low divides. At 
Culebra where we are making our deepest cut the pass 
was only 290 feet above sea level. The highest peak in the 
Republic is the Cerro del Picacho near the Costa Rican bor- 
der. It is a little over 7000 feet. There are four other 
mountains in the western provinces which are over 5000 
feet. They gradually decrease in height to the center 



of the Isthmus and then begin to climb again towards 
the Colombian borders, where they again approach 5000 

The Republic is divided into the following provinces: 
(1) Bocas del Toro, (2) Chiriqui, (3) Veraguas, (4) Los 
Santos, (5) Code", (6) Colon, and (7) Panama. The last is 
by far the largest, more than a third of the total, and Code 
is the smallest. 

Bocas del Toro (the mouths of the bull) is the extreme 
northwest. It is notable for the wonderful Almirante Bay 
and Chiriqui Lagoon. They are really one body of water, 
as the long, narrow peninsula which divides them is almost 
an island. It will be remembered by students of President 
Lincoln's administration that this was one of the locations 
considered by our Government for a naval station. In fact, 
it is almost certain that if Lincoln had not been assassinated 
we would have acquired the Lagoon. He had been deeply 
impressed by the difficulty of blockading the Gulf ports 
without some such base and he kept Seward busy trying to 
acquire one of the West India islands or some post on the 

The Chiriqui Lagoon is thirty-five miles long from east 
to west and about twelve miles wide. It is an unbroken 
sheet of water and navigable for the biggest warships. 

Almirante Bay really the northwestern extension of the 
Lagoon is a maze of waterways between its numerous 
islands. It has, however, a number of fairly large harbors 
and deep water in most of its channels. In many places the 
banks are so abrupt that a deep draught steamer can tie up 
to the shore. The mainland is a tableland about 600 feet 
high and within a few miles reaches an elevation of 2000 
feet. It is remarkably salubrious, and on account of its ideal 
facilities for bathing and small boating and its marvellous 
scenery seems doomed to develop into a smart winter resort. 


At present the province is practically a feudal domain of 
the United Fruit Company, and banana growing is its prin- 
cipal industry. The Chanquinolo River is one of the finest 
spots in the world for this fruit. There is said to be coal of 
good quality in the province, but it has never been mined. 

Bocas del Toro, a town of about 6000 inhabitants, is the 
capital of the province. It is built on an island at the 
mouth of Almirante Bay and B a very busy port of export. 
About five steamers and as many sailing vessels clear from 
Boca every week, loaded down to the scuppers with fruit. 

The Province of Chiriqui lies to the south and east of 
Bocas del Toro. It has considerable frontage on both 

David, the capital, has about 8000 inhabitants and is 
rapidly growing. It is the largest inland city of the Re- 
public and far and away the most progressive. 

There has long been a large grain and cattle trade in this 
province and new crops are being planted, new industries 
started with surprising frequency. It is the favorite loca- 
tion for foreign settlers. The reports one hears from those 
who have gone in for agriculture are generally favorable. 

In 1910 the government authorized the building of a rail- 
road from Panama City to David. A good deal of money 
was spent on surveys, and the talk of a railroad generated 
considerable land speculation in Chiriqui and the intervening 
provinces. Perhaps this was the end which the framers of 
the bill had in view. It was hardly a practical project. 
Neither the present population along the proposed route 
nor the rosiest estimates of the value of the undeveloped 
resources in the neighborhood warranted so great an outlay. 
Happily this scheme was vetoed in time. Some of the 
money is to be spent in harbor improvements and in short 
lines and better roads inland. 

In the early colonial days the Spaniards worked some 


very rich gold mines in the mountains of Chiriqui, and one 
of the most popular industries to-day is that of trying to 
relocate these lost mines. 

It is here also that the signs of the highest pre-Colombian 
civilization have been found. The high development of art 
and architecture with which Cortez met in Mexico, seems 
to have petered out to the southward. In the other states 
of Central America some imposing ruins have been found. 
The largest are in Guatemala. In Costa Rica there are 
few signs of architectural development and the pottery and 
implements are more crude. In Chiriqui one finds only 
a few "painted stones" and graves. A popular form of 
vacation for the American employees on the Canal is to go 
grave-robbing in the country back of David. A native 
walks in front of you and pounds the ground with an iron 
rod. If he gets a hollow sound, he digs. If he strikes a 
grave you are almost sure to find weird pottery and some- 
times gold ornaments. M. de Zeltner, a former French 
Consul at Panama, has written an interesting brochure on 
the prehistoric graves of this district. And the Smithsonian 
Institute has published an elaborate description of them. 

Farther east, is the Province of Veraguas wedge-shaped, 
with only a few miles on the Atlantic coast and a couple of 
hundred on the Pacific. It is remarkable for its beautiful 
islands and Montijo Bay, the second of the great harbors of 
the Isthmus. 

Coiba Island is the largest in the Republic. It is more 
than twenty miles long, well wooded and fertile, but it is 
very sparsely settled. Jicaran, further out to sea, is much 
smaller, but rises 1400 feet above the sea. It is the most 
beautiful of all a real distinction along a coast studded 
with beautiful islands. 

Montijo Bay is fourteen miles long by nine broad. Ce- 
baco, an island fifteen miles long, stretches across its en- 


trance and makes it one of the most sheltered harbors ever 
contrived by nature. 

Veraguas, and the small Province of Los Santos, form 
together a peninsula which reaches to the southern extrem- 
ity of the Isthmus. The coast then turns back an acute 
angle and runs northwest up to Parita Bay and the Prov- 
ince of Code". 

These three provinces are the least developed of the 
Republic. They are sparsely settled. The blood of the 
population varies between the formulae: one tenth Span- 
iard, one tenth Cholo Indian, eight-tenths negro, and one- 
tenth Spanish, one-tenth negro, eight-tenths Indian. Near 
the coast the negro strain predominates, in the hills that of 
the Indians. 

The roads are the merest trails impassable, even for 
Indians on foot, during much of the rainy season. There is 
very little circulation of commodities beyond navigable 
water. The population has the ingrown indolence which 
comes from life in such bountiful countries. It is only 
necessary to scratch the earth with a stick to make yams 
and plantains grow. The only tools needed for rice are a 
pair of hands. And one could not stop the plentiful har- 
vest of cocoanuts if one tried. 

Colon Province is the extreme north of the Isthmus. 
What has just been said about the three provinces to the 
west applies to it, with the exception of Colon City. And 
this city is entirely the work of foreigners. It was founded, 
and at first called "Aspinwall," by the Panama Railroad 
Company in 1850. 

The province, however, is rich in historical interest. 
Columbus himself visited the coast on his last voyage in 
1502. He named Puerto Bello, and what is now called 
Colon Harbor, he christened Navy Bay. Not far from the 
present City of Colon he attempted to found a colony it 


would have been the first on the continent. His brother 
Bartholomew landed with a company of settlers, but the 
day before the great admiral sailed away they were attacked 
by the Indians and driven to the ships. It was along this 
shore that Don Diego de Nicuesa, seven years later, strove 
so desperately to gain a foothold for his sovereign. He had 
set out with a brilliant following to establish a Spanish col- 
ony and met with a series of almost incredible disasters. 
Beaten back by the savage natives, buffeted by storms, his 
ships eaten by worms, he and the pitiful remnant of his 
expedition came to a favorable looking harbor. "In the 
name of God," he cried, "let us stop here." "Nombre de 
Dios," they called the place; it is still on the map. 

East along the coast from Colon is the Gulf of San Bias, 
named after the most unique tribe of Indians left in Amer- 
ica. The San Bias have never been conquered. And they 
have preserved their ethnic purity as intact as their terri- 
tory. Their coast is famous for its cocoanuts the finest 
on the market. A number of schooners trade with the 
villages along the shore and on the islands. But there are 
no European settlements in their territory. 

The Province of Panama, with long coast lines on both 
oceans, is the eastern extreme of the Republic. Most of it 
is undeveloped. But there is considerable cattle-raising. 
Several companies, with foreign capital, have been estab- 
lished in the Bayano Valley. They are interested in 
bananas, cocoanuts, vegetable ivory, rubber and cacao. 
A lumber company, an English affair, is planning to exploit 
the mahogany and cabinet woods. And down towards the 
Colombian border, near the headwaters of the Tuyra River, 
are the properties of the Darien Gold Mining Company. 
The mines date from prehistoric times and there have been 
very few long interruptions in the taking out of bullion. 
At present the company is run under an English charter, 


but most of the stockholders and the technical managers 
are French. 

The Province of Panama contains the third of the great 
natural harbors of the Isthmus. San Miguel Bay, with its 
inner Darien Harbor, is a natural naval station without 
rival. The entrance into Darien Harbor, from the immense 
outer bay, is almost closed by a large island, on either side 
of which are deep, safe channels, the Boca Chica and the 
Boca Grande. Beyond them, is an unbroken expanse of 
water, thirty miles long by half that width. All the navies 
of all the nations could anchor here in safety. Half a dozen 
submarine mines would make the place the surest refuge in 
the world. 

The big tides form a great advantage over the Chiriqui 
Lagoon. They rise and fall fifteen feet and at "spring 
tide " twenty feet. The shores of the harbor are natural 
dry-docks. Any ships which visit these coasts can be run 
up on the beach on the top of the tide and left high and 
dry when it falls. A further advantage is that the Tuyra 
River is navigable beyond salt water. A short anchorage in 
fresh water kills the barnacles, which are the pest of navi- 
gation in these waters. 

One cannot look at the Chiriqui Lagoon on the Carib- 
bean, Montijo Bay and the Darien Harbor on the Pacific, 
without regretting that the Republic of Panama is not a 
great maritime nation, that these immensely valuable nat- 
ural harbors should be unused. 

Off the mouth of San Miguel Bay are the Pearl Islands. 
The archipelago is over thirty miles long. There are six- 
teen big islands and innumerable small ones. The Isla del 
Rey is over ten miles long and as big as all the rest put to- 
gether. Most of the islands which have fresh water are occu- 
pied. There is a considerable output of cocoanuts and pine- 
apples, but of course the pearl fisheries are the big industry. 


Taking the Isthmus as a whole its most noticeable feature 
is the maze of innumerable rivers. As a rule the mountains 
are nearer the Atlantic than the Pacific; so most of the 
longer rivers are on the southern slope. However, the Rio 
Code" del Norte has its source in the province of Code", and 
crosses that of Colon to empty into the Caribbean. The 
Chagres River, which is to furnish the water for the Canal, 
is also a northern stream. It is about 100 miles long and 
navigable half that distance by small boats. 

The largest of all the rivers is the Tuyra, or Rio del 
Santa Maria, as the old maps have it. From its mouth in 
Darien Harbor it is navigable for small steamers and 
schooners, fifty miles inland. The cayukas, native dugouts, 
go up it and its tributary, the Chucunaque, for fifty miles 

The climate of the Isthmus has a much worse name than 
it deserves. It makes a very creditable showing indeed in 
regard to temperature. There is no record of thermometer 
ever having reached 100 in Panama City. There are many 
cities in the States which cannot make such a boast. 

Mr. Johnson, in his "Four Centuries of the Panama 
Canal," has summarized the mass of Government observa- 
tions as follows: "At Panama the hottest time of day is 
from two to four P.M., when the average temperature ranges 
from 81.6 Fahrenheit, in November, to 86.1 in March. 
The coolest hour is from six to seven o'clock A.M., when the 
average temperature ranges from 74, in January, to 76.6 
in June. The general average of highest temperature is 
84, and the lowest 75.1." There are very f ew places 
within ten degrees of the equator with as mild a record. 

But when it comes to "humidity" there is very little to 
be said for the Isthmus. Even in what is called the "dry 
season" the humidity runs up to an average close to 80. 
The average for the whole year is five degrees higher. 


Colon has an annual average rainfall of 140 inches and a 
record of 180 inches. In Panama the annual rainfall is not 
half as great 60 inches. In Colon one must expect 196 
rainy days, and in Panama 141, out of the 365. The dry 
season runs from the middle of December to the middle of 
April. The rainy season is the other eight months. 

Outside of the Canal circles, where everyone talks of 
"The Ditch," the principal subject of conversation is the 
opportunity for foreigners to make money in Panama. 
The attitude of the Panamanians is enigmatical. They all 
speak with enthusiasm of the development of their country 
by outside capital in the abstract. But the moment a 
proposition becomes concrete they freeze up. Any effort to 
get official papers such as deeds registered meets with such 
disheartening delays as to smack of positive hostility to 

In the face of the unquestioned resources of the Isthmus, 
there is remarkably little development. 

There are three main obstacles in the way of foreign 
enterprise : 

(1) The uncertainty of land titles. There are a dozen 
large estates which would be bought up and developed at 
once if titles were clear, which are tied up in litigation. 
Always some of the heirs are obstructing a settlement, in 
the hope that the next turn-over in politics will put some 
of their friends on the bench. There are almost no accurate 
surveys and the records of the land office are a mess. In 
Honduras an American once found a deed which recorded 
the corner of the property as marked by "a dead mahogany 
tree, with two ravens on the branch." Perhaps the Panama 
records do not offer so crude an absurdity. But nine out 
of ten of the myriad springs in the country are called 
"Aguadulce." And many deeds give "a spring called 
Aguadulce" as a boundary mark. Frequently the original 


land grants read "from the sea back to the mountains." 
When the hinterland had no value this was a satisfactory 
description, but it is now a fruitful source of dispute. Very 
few landholders know definitely how much they own. 
During my last visit to Panama, an Englishman paid for 
several thousand acres of timber land. When he took pos- 
session, his surveyor could only find a few hundred acres. 
Mistakes are sure to occur even when both sides are acting 
in good faith, and the opportunities for fraud are limitless. 
No one should go into a land transaction without the cer- 
tainty of a bona-fide survey. 

(2) The next obstacle to progress is the dearth of good 
roads the almost total lack of bridges. The country, for 
instance, is full of valuable cabinet woods. A dozen con- 
cerns have come to grief after acquiring good title to enough 
standing mahogany to make a fortune. It is next to im- 
possible to get the stuff out. The cost of transportation 
is prohibitive. The same handicap burdens every under- 
taking but weighs especially on any enterprise the product 
of which is bulky or perishable. There are immense tracts 
of valuable banana land lying fallow for want of transpor- 
tation. It works both ways as it is just as difficult to get 
machinery and provisions in as it is to get your commodity 

(3) The third obstacle and the most serious of all for 
a large undertaking is the dearth of labor force. If the 
enterprise requires steady labor, it must be imported. The 
native population is small and long tradition has habit- 
uated them to the simplest of simple lives. Nature is so 
bountiful that a man can easily raise a family according to 
accepted standards of living by two days work a week. It 
is easy almost anywhere on the Isthmus to get fifty men to 
work for you. But as soon as they have earned enough to 
buy a year's supply of powder and shot, and half a dozen 


needles for the wife, it is all over. Five dollars a day would 
not keep them on the job. They will have to be educated 
up to a new and very much more complex system of 
"wants," before they will become reliable workmen. 

The banana fields of the United Fruit Company in Bocas 
del Toro are the biggest foreign enterprise in the Repub- 
lic. They have successfully overcome the last two ob- 
stacles. Their fruit grows near water and they have built 
a network of rails into the more remote fields. They con- 
trol good harbors. So their transportation problem is 
solved. And they import their labor from the West India 
islands. But their land titles are in a bad tangle and it is 
costing them many thousands of dollars to get them straight- 
ened out. 

The Darien Gold Mining Company is the oldest and the 
most firmly established in the country. Their titles are 
clear. They run a small steamer weekly from Panama to 
Marriganti on the Tuyra River and they transport upriver 
in "cayukas" and, during the rainy season, in a flat- 
bottomed stern-wheeler to the head of navigation, from 
which place they operate a miniature railroad to the mine 
site. They also have to import most of their labor. Their 
profits are seriously decreased by the high cost of transpor- 

Another industry in which there is considerable capital 
mostly local is pearl fishing. It does not seem to be well 
organized. But considering the slipshod methods it is very 
profitable. The "mother of pearl" from the shells pays a 
small interest on the capital and all the real pearls are clear 
profit. There are twenty or thirty ships equipped with 
diving apparatus, which operate at the islands and up and 
down the coast. But the majority of the diving is done by 
the natives of the Pearl Islands. They are enslaved to the 
companies by debt and are viciously exploited. It seems 


possible that a concern with sufficient capital to buy out 
and consolidate the rival companies and organize the in- 
dustry might make money. 

Any large enterprise by outsiders demands sufficient 
capital and patience to secure clear titles, efficient trans- 
portation and a steady labor force. 

This applies only to "big business." The Isthmus offers 
opportunity to half a million settlers of the type of our 
forefathers who pushed across the Appalachians and won 
the West. One who wants to live close to nature will hunt 
long before he finds a location where the Old Mother is 
kindlier. The opportunities for small homes are limitless. 
Much fertile land is unoccupied and can be taken up under 
the homestead law. Dozens of profitable crops are prac- 
tical rice, onions, rubber, bananas, and other fruits. 

In my opinion there is nothing more surely profitable than 
cacao. The consumption of chocolate, both as a beverage 
and in confections, is growing steadily. The market price is 
rising regularly and is not subject to the speculative irregu- 
larities which make coffee and rubber little better than 
gambling. Unlike rubber, the cultivation is very simple. 
It is a neglected crop, as is everything to-day which does 
not promise speedy returns, because it takes eight or ten 
years for the bush to reach maturity. But I have seen 
trees eighty years old which were still bearing full capacity. 

The natural history of the Isthmus has not yet been writ- 
ten. The Smithsonian Institution is at present conducting 
a "biological survey" of the Canal Zone. I have had the 
pleasure of meeting several of the outfit, a specialist on 
beetles, another on minute moths, a fish expert, a student 
of mammals, an ornithologist and so forth. When their re- 
ports are published we will know more about the flora and 
fauna of the Isthmus than about any other part of the 
world. But I found it impossible to find any reliable infor- 


mation. The natives of Taboga Island will assure you that 
every year the land crabs come down to the village in great 
numbers to join the Good Friday procession. They prob- 
ably come down from the hills to deposit their eggs near 
the shore at that time of year. Most of the information 
about birds and beasts and flowers which can be gained from 
the natives is equally unreliable. 

The data on flora and fauna given by the old chroniclers 
is not much better. In " A letter, giving a description of 
the Isthmus of Darien . . . from a gentleman who lives 
there at present," which was printed in Edinburgh in 1599, 
I find the following paragraphs: 

5. "To write further of the trees, it would fill a good many sheets." 

6. "There are also crocodiles. I could tell you a good true story 
about one of them, but being too tedious I forbear." 

7. "There is a great dale of Doggs, Deer, Rabbets, and Monkeys, 
and many other sorts of Quadrupeds, which Ye have not the like of 
in Europe." . . . "There is another small Bird here called Cabre- 
ros, or Goat-Keepers; in these Birds are seven distinct Bladders of 
Gall, and their Flesh is as bitter as Aloes: Of these we have abundance." 

8. "There is a Root called by the Indians Cazove of which they 
make a liquor called Vey-Cou much like unto Beer. 

"Another fruit called Bananas, is an excellent Liquor, which in 
strength and Pleasantness of tast, may be compared to the best Wines 
of Spain. But this Liquor easily causes Drunkenness." 

There are very few dangerous animals. There is a sort of 
wild cat which the natives call lions, lots of alligators and 
some snakes and scorpions, but I have never heard of a 
trustworthy account, nor have I met anyone who has heard 
such an account of any man having lost his life from any 
of these animals. 

There are lots of queer animals, tapirs, ant-eaters, the 
giant lizard of Central America the iguana. And there 
are no end of gorgeous exotic birds, paroquets and humming 
birds. Most beautiful of all are the snow-white aigrette 


herons, of which one sees hundreds on the rivers of the 

Judging from my notebooks, I think I saw a new flower 
every minute I spent in the interior. Very few of them 
were familiar. Everywhere the jungle is full of orchids. 
It is quite probable that a profitable business might be made 
of shipping the more beautiful varieties to the home marketf 



THERE is little real friendship between the Americans on 
the Isthmus and the natives. 

In temperament and tradition we are miles away from 
the Panamanians. The hostility between Latin and Saxon 
probably dates back to the old Roman days when the 
Saxons first began to plunder the Latins. 

When the Spanish Empire sprang up in America, its most 
relentless enemies were the protestants of England. Even 
in the odd moments when the two mother countries were 
not at war, the colonists never buried the hatchet. From 
the days of Drake till the fall of Carthagena, the Latin 
people of Central America lived in constant fear of the 
English buccaneers. 

Since our revolution they have transferred this dread to 
us. Gradually, but apparently relentlessly, the United 
States have expanded always at the cost of Spanish Amer- 
ica. Florida, Texas and California, the Philippines, Porto 
Rico, one after the other, have disappeared down the maw 
of what out southern neighbors are wont to call "The 
Northern Vulture." 

Very many of our representatives in the Canal Zone 
have made sincere efforts to establish friendly relations 
with the native population. A few still continue such 
efforts, but most have given it up as hopeless. The two 
people live side by side, meet occasionally at the theatre 
or public receptions, but very rarely become intimate. 



Perhaps half a dozen American men have married Pana- 
manian wives. I have not heard of a single American 
woman marrying a native. 

The age-old hostility to the " Gringo" is deep-rooted. 
Differences in language, customs and religious practices 
keep the breach wide. 

So any description of the people is necessarily that of an 
outsider. Very likely many of the things which seem 
ludicrous or unlovely to us might be understood and over- 
looked if they would admit us to greater intimacy. 

Panamanian society is sharply divided in classes. The 
people on top are either old Spanish families, whose income 
is dependent on land, or well-established families of foreign 
extraction who have been naturalized for many years and 
whose source of income is industrial. The descendants of 
the Conquistadores look down on these parvenu families in 
private, but are so generally in debt to them that they dare 
not do so in public. They form a pretty solid social block. 

The division in regard to politics is sharper than that of 
heredity. At present the Liberal party is in power and the 
Conservatives are getting social as well as political snubs. 
One of the most noticeable things about these people is their 
inability to bury political differences. Theirs is a politic 
of personalities, first, last and all the time. The Conserv- 
ative members of "The Union Club" are resigning 
although the club was formed as a place where the two 
sides could meet socially because they feel that they have 
not been fairly treated in committee appointments. As a 
general proposition, Conservatives and Liberals will not 
break any manner of bread together. During the elections 
for the Queen of the Carnivals, all good Liberals vote for 
the daughter of a Liberal. 

This political bitterness, which shows itself so unpleas- 
antly in social life, goes to even worse extremes in the 


business of politics. Every political turn-over means an 
entire house cleaning. Every government official, from 
judge to street cleaner, loses his job to make way for a 
member of the triumphant party. The Liberal party, now 
in power, has developed the "machine patronage system" 
to ludicrous lengths. They seem bent on creating a job 
for every one of a safe majority of voters. Panama City 
has enough policemen for a city ten times its size. Consu- 
lates have been sprinkled all over the map often in places 
that never saw a Panamanian till the consul arrived. 

There is absolute unanimity on the question that what 
the Republic needs before and above everything else are 
roads. With its long coast lines and many navigable rivers, 
it is unusually adapted to the cheapest of all forms of trans- 
portation by water. Small amounts of money spent in 
harbor works in half a dozen places, a few good roads lead- 
ing inland from the harbors, would open up large districts. 
Yet the 1910 National Assembly voted to tie up all the re- 
serve capital of the nation in a railroad of doubtful utility. 
Railroading is always expensive transportation; in tropical 
countries it is especially so. 

The little Republic of Panama made its bow to the world 
in the enviable position of having several dollars per capita 
in the bank, when most of its older sisters were heavily in 
debt. Much of this reserve has been squandered in riotous 
building of national theatres and national universities or in 
more riotous pay rolls. Very little of it has gone in real 
development of the country. 

What is not plain graft is grandiose. They are building 
elaborate buildings for a National Institute to which they 
tell you quite seriously all the youth of Central America, if 
not Europe and Asia, will flock. It is admittedly too big 
for the needs of the Republic. That it takes generations 
for a university to acquire sufficient fame to attract foreign- 


ers seems not to have suggested itself to them. That they 
may have trouble in collecting a really erudite faculty has 
also been ignored. The project is on a par with their 
National Theatre. It is an imposing building which would 
do credit to a metropolis. It is not lighted fifty nights in 
a year. During my second visit to Panama (a three months 
stay) it was only opened once for an amateur performance 
arranged by American ladies for the benefit of the Red 
Cross. But it is possible that Bernhardt may visit the 
Isthmus again. It is necessary to have a suitable theatre 
for her. It is possible that one of the youngsters who is 
getting a very poor sort of an education in the present 
schools may develop into an Abelard, and forsooth it is 
necessary to build his Sorbonne in advance especially 
when the contract for construction is profitable. 

A further consideration is undoubtedly in the minds of 
the "liberal" statesmen. They cannot hope to keep in 
power forever, so what is the use of leaving anything for the 
hated Conservatives to get away with? 

My view of Isthmanian politics may be flippant, but if 
so, the blame is due to several of her prominent citizens 
who, when I went to them with hope of getting at the real 
matter of principle involved in their politics, gave me noth- 
ing but cheap invective. If there is really any difference 
in principle between the parties, it is not to be found in the 
" press" of the country. 

Below this class, composed of landed gentry politicians 
and financial industrial politicians, lies the great mass of 
the people, who take no more part in government affairs 
than they do in government receptions. One sees them at 
their worst in the cities, as is true in every country. The 
Sanitary Department has cleaned up the slums, and the 
housing conditions are better than in many more prosperous 


In the country they lead a sort of Arcadian life. There 
is much free land, and those who have not acquired any 
property "squat' 7 wherever the fancy strikes them. 

Of course, the base of the population is Indian a squat, 
square-faced type, completely unlike the illustrations in the 
de luxe editions of Hiawatha. There are two main ethnic 
groups of Indians. The Cholos, a fairly pure type is found 
in the mountains of Code" province, are scattered all up 
and down the west coast, from the borders of Mexico to 
the edge of Peru. The early Spanish adventurers found 
that friendly Indians from the Isthmus could act as inter- 
preters within these limits. 

In the northeastern part of the country, beginning at 
the Gulf of San Bias and extending almost to the Colom- 
bian border, and inland to the Chucunaque River, are the 
San Bias. Probably of the same race as the Cholos, they 
have become differentiated in the four centuries since the 
visit of Columbus, in that they have never been conquered 
and have not allowed intermarriage. They boast that "no 
San Bias woman has borne a half-breed, that no San Bias 
man has fathered a mongrel." They are estimated at 
about 20,000, and are reputed to be well armed. As the 
Republic has no army, they have every prospect of main- 
taining their independence for a long time to come. 

They are not unfriendly to white men, and treasure an 
especial respect for tlie English, who, tradition tells them, 
are irreconcilable enemies of their enemies, the Spaniards. 
The San Bias men frequently come up to Colon and Pan- 
ama with cayukas laden with cocoanuts and scrap rubber 
which they trade for powder and salt and needles and 
cloth. They allow traders along their coast, but never 
permit them to stay on shore during the night. They 
guard their women to such an extent that a white man 
rarely sees one of them except through glasses. The mo- 


ment a stranger approaches a village, the women disappear 
into the bush. 

The San Bias men who come up to town like the Cho- 
los speak Spanish, but whether or not they have forgotten 
their own language I could not make sure. A trader from 
Yavisa on the Chucunaque told me that Spanish was their 
only language. Some Altantic coast traders maintained 
the opposite, that only a few of the men learned Spanish, 
and that their native language was still used. 

The Cholo Indians have not preserved their ethnic purity 
and seem to have no sentiment in the matter. Most of the 
crossing has been with negroes, the slaves of colonial days, 
their descendants, and the recent immigrants from the 
West Indies. But the crossing of the races has been varied 
in the extreme. At El Real on the Tuyra River, a pure type 
of Cholo girl was married to the leading Chinese merchant, 
and had two almond-eyed and yellow-skinned youngsters. 
It is generally affirmed that aside from the San Bias people, 
no native of Panama is of pure blood. The color line is not 
drawn very sharply in the official and social circles of the 
cities, so of course it is not on the country side. 

Family life is simple in the extreme. John and Jennie, 
or more probably Jose" and Dolores, walk off some fine day. 
If they happen to pass a priest, they may stop and get 
married. When they find a satisfactory place, it does not 
take them many days to get settled. They have probably 
started out with a couple of machetes, an earthen pot and 
a hammock. They build a roof and hoist it up on four 
poles. They begin cutting out a clearing, and at the end 
of the dry season, burn off the fallen timber. Until their 
first crop comes to harvest, they borrow rice and yams and 
plantains from their relatives if there does not happen to 
be a stranger more near at hand. In the course of a few 
years they have as many children, their original shelter has 


been turned into a kitchen, and a new rancho with woven 
walls has become their residence. They have several acres 
under mild cultivation. The bananas and oranges have 
begun to bear. Dolores has woven several new hammocks, 
has moulded several new pots and pans, and has made a 
dozen different household utensils out of the fruit of their 
thriving calabash tree. They have become people of con- 
sideration, and are now in a position to lend yams and rice 
to more recently established homes. 

Once a year or so, Jose* sets out for the nearest town. 
He loads up with various medicinal gums they have gath- 
ered, a few pounds of rubber scrap, and, if Dolores is a 
clever artisan at hat weaving or gourd carving, with her 
handiwork. On the way he stops at every hacienda he 
passes and asks for work. In due course he reaches town 
with a handful of silver, buys what supplies he needs and 
returns to Dolores for another long sleep. As soon as the 
oldest boy grows up, he sends him to town instead, and 
sleeps all the year round. 

In all my trips into the interior, I never found a native 
white man who was truly hospitable, and never found an 
Indian who was not. However, I would not care to gener- 
alize from my experience. 

The formal tribal relations have broken down among the 
Cholo Indians. They appear to be, according to Herbert 
Spencer's ideal, the happiest of people, for they are cer- 
tainly the least governed. Half a dozen whom I questioned 
did not know who was president of the Republic. There 
seems to be in each community some old man who is gen- 
erally considered wise. Disputes are informally submitted 
to him, but he has no authority to back up his deci- 

The jungle stretches on all sides invitingly. Very few 
of the Indians have acquired sufficient property to bind 


them to a locality or community; and if a man felt he was 
unjustly treated by his neighbors, he would move. 

The landed gentry generally live in the cities. Their 
haciendas are unattractive places, the cultivation of their 
estates is almost nil. In general, their income comes from 
cattle raising or those forms of agriculture which require the 
least human labor. There is none of the slavery of which 
one hears so much in Mexico, partly because the Pana- 
manian gentry are too indolent to make effective slave driv- 
ers, but more because the jungle offers such ready escape. 

Almost every time you find an even moderately well- 
cultivated estate, you will find a foreigner as foreman. 

The homes of the rich are strangely unattractive to 
Northerners, and this is especially remarkable, as most of 
the upper class have been educated abroad. 

I spent nearly a week in a household not far from Pan- 
ama City. They were the most important people of. the 
village, and reputed to be rich. They were so nearly white 
that the daughters had been received in a smart finishing 
school in the States. Several members of the family had 
been in Europe. One would naturally expect certain traces 
of advanced culture. 

It was a large one-storied house, with unglazed windows. 
One room, which served as a dining and living room, was 
papered with a cheap, gaudy, green and gilt paper, stained 
and moldy from humidity. The walls of the other rooms 
were bare. In this living room there was a grand piano 
which had been out of tune at least a generation, and had 
been superseded by a graphophone. Sousa marches were 
the family's preference in music. On the wall there was a 
chromo portrait of Alphonso XIII, advertising a brand of 
sherry, and a hideous crayon enlargement from a photograph 
of the father. In a book-shelf there was a fine old set of 
Cervantes, a couple of French and English dictionaries and 


text books, and a file of La Hacienda, an illustrated maga- 
zine published by and in the interests of an American manu- 
facturer of farm machinery. I did not see any member of 
the family reading anything but the daily paper from 
Panama, although they could all read and speak French 
and English. 

The ladies of the household spent the morning in dingy 
mother hubbards and slippers. After a heavy midday meal 
they retired to their hammocks. About four o'clock they 
took a dip in the ocean, sat around the rest of the evening 
with a towel over their shoulders and their hair drying. 

About a month later I encountered one of these young 
ladies at a ball in Panama. She was dressed in an exqui- 
site Paris gown, and was strikingly beautiful. She would 
have passed muster in the most exclusive set in any Euro- 
pean capital. It was hard to believe that 360 days out of 
the year she led the slipshod, slovenly life I had seen in her 

The married life of the better class natives does not seem 
attractive to Americans. The women have no social inter- 
course with men, except at infrequent balls and formal 
dinners. They are expected to keep their feet on the rocker 
of the cradle all the time. The men lead their social life in 
cafes and clubs. "Calling" is unknown. Many amusing 
stories are told of the excitement and astonishment caused 
by Americans breaking over this custom. There were a 
great many love feasts in the early days. Everyone talked 
of friendship between the two nations, and the Americans 
believed in it. And our young men, having duly met the 
ladies of Panama at these formal functions, proceeded to 
"call" in form. Invariably they found the ladies in "des- 
habille" and tongue-tied with astonishment at the invasion. 
The husbands were outraged at this attack on the sanctity 
of their homes, and while the affair fell short of a diplomatic 


incident, a lot of explaining had to be done to avoid the duels 
which threatened. 

Considering that several thousands of American bachelors 
have worked in the Canal Zone, it is remarkable that so few 
have married Panamanian women. 

The religion of the country is Roman Catholic. Most of 
the men, however, seem to be free thinkers. Even more 
than in Protestant countries, the congregations at the 
churches are made up of women. But especially at fiestas 
the churches are packed. The ceremonial in these Latin- 
American countries is not as attractive as it is in Europe 
nor as impressive as it is in Russia. The religious fervor 
which marked the clergy in the early days of colonization 
the missionary spirit seems to have very largely given place 
to formalism, and rather shoddy formalism at that. Even 
the linen on the high altar of the Cathedral is not spotless. 
The silken finery of Nuestra Senora del la Merced is moth- 
eaten. The worshippers seem uninspired, the celebrants of 
the mass half asleep. There seems to be no singing to speak 
of. Only once I heard some sisters and it was a sadly un- 
trained chorus chanting a mass in San Felipe Neri. 

The old journal of an Englishman who was held some 
months captive by the Indians, before their conversion, tells 
of how they used to put bunches of flowers and piles of 
bones at the dark places along the trails places where evil 
spirits were supposed to congregate. If you ride back into 
the interior to-day, in all such fearsome places you will see 
bunches of flowers and rude crosses. In every "rancho" 
you will find a sacred corner presided over by a wooden 
cross, and sometimes a holy picture. The Indian women 
like to put broken pieces of looking glass about these shrines. 
But beyond this it is hard to find any signs of Christianity 
among the natives. 

"Sport," in the Anglo-Saxon sense, is hardly known in 


Panama. The nearest approach to baseball, for instance, 
is cock-fighting. It holds a place in the hearts of the peo- 
ple on a par with, if not above, political intrigue. There are 
cock fights every Sunday, and elections only once a year. 

The birds are raised with great care, and are trained 
and fed with as much solicitude as a prize fighter. Sunday 
morning, while the women are at church, the men crowd 
into the cock-pit. The excitement is intense, the tobacco 
smoke dense and the sport pitiful. Two cocks, most of 
their feathers shaved off, are brought into the ring by their 
keepers. There is a long wrangle over odds, and then bets 
are tossed in from the circle of seats. When the debate 
between the keepers is ended, they knock the roosters' 
heads together and then turn them loose. I sat through a 
couple of hours of it once, and only one bout of a dozen or 
more had any action to it or any suspense. In the other 
cases, after a little sparring, one cock ran and the other 
chased it, round and round the pit. Every few minutes 
the backer of the fleeing cock would persuade it to turn 
round and face the foe, but in a second the chase would 
begin again. The bout was ended when one cock was 
smitten with heart failure. Perhaps the worst thing which 
can be said of the Panamanians is that cock fighting is their 
national sport. 

The hostility to the Gringos is industriously fostered by 
the merchants of the Republic, few of whom are native- 
born Panamanians. 

The situation furnishes a very interesting study of how 
far political passion can blind people to their economic 

The Isthmian Canal Commission has developed a com- 
missary department for the benefit of the employees. It 
is an immense cooperative store where great economies are 
effective, and the prices for almost any article are appre- 


ciably lower in the commissaries than in the private stores 
of Panama and Colon. The merchants of the Republic 
have organized a bitter opposition to this system, and by 
their influence on the government have effected, through 
diplomatic channels, an agreement by which the privilege 
of trading at the commissaries is strictly limited. No one 
who is not a canal employee or a member of the diplomatic 
corps can enjoy the benefit of cheap buying without a special 
permit from the President of the Republic. 

Ice is almost a necessity of life in the tropics. A private 
monopoly in Panama City manufactures it and sells it at 
exorbitant prices. The Commissary has a fine modern 
plant and furnishes ice to canal employees at cost. A few 
families reap immense profit from the ice monopoly. All 
the natives pay exorbitant prices for it. If the National 
Assembly should pass a resolution instructing the President 
to request the Commission to extend its commissary privi- 
leges to the people of Panama, nine-tenths of the population 
would benefit immensely, and only half a dozen already rich 
families would suffer. It pays these families to stir up 
patriotism to the extent that the natives prefer to go without 
ice rather than touch that of the Gringos. 

An even more striking case is furnished by the situation 
in regard to electric power and light. The same clique who 
own the ice monopoly have an antiquated electric plant, 
operated by coal brought all the way from the States. 
The unit cost is ludicrously high, and the monopolistic profit 
is extortionate. A few miles out of Panama, the Commission 
is installing a large electrical power plant to operate the 
Locks. They must make it large enough to handle the 
maximum of traffic, and there is no possibility of the maxi- 
mum being reached for years to come. It would certainly 
pay our Government to furnish light and power to Panama 
at less than cost. 


A small clique, probably not one hundred people, includ- 
ing relatives, is succeeding in blinding the entire city to 
these easy economies, by its ardent anti-Gringo patriotism. 

I am sorry to have a so unfavorable impression of these 
people. Their virtues they carefully hide from the for- 
eigner. Their statesmen may have real interest in the 
welfare of their country, but they will talk to you only 
about their political animosities. Their women, on close 
acquaintance, may be lovable in the extreme. The Amer- 
ican rarely sees them, except in frowsy attire on the bal- 
conies of their unattractive homes. 

It is hard to like people who have evidently made up 
their mind to dislike you. 


"THE DARIEN" is a vague term for the eastern end of the 
Isthmus. There is a Gulf of Darien on the Atlantic side, 
and a Darien Harbor on the Pacific. The old maps give 
the same name interchangeably for the two rivers now 
called the Atrato and the Tuyra. It is a territory about 
which very little is known. Part of it nobody knows ex- 
actly how much is occupied by the San Bias Indians 

Once a month, on the spring tide, the National Naviga- 
tion Company of Panama send one of their boats to "The 
Darien." It is a five-day cruise, and the most interesting 
side trip which a visitor to the Isthmus can make. 

I went down towards the end of the dry season, on the 
steamer Veraguas. It was late afternoon when we left the 
busy harbor of Panama. The lowering sun set the mother- 
of-pearl on the Cathedral towers afire, shone a blazing red 
on the many windows of the Tivoli Hotel and the American 
town on Ancon Hill. We passed close inshore by the site 
of Old Panama, the ruined tower of St. Anastasius outlined 
above the jungle against the sunset, and then out across the 
bay, towards Brava Point. The water, as smooth as a 
ballroom floor, was blue past description, except where it 
caught some of the red of the western sky. 

After an amazingly good supper for so small a craft, the 
captain spun yarns for us up on the bridge. He had good 
ones to spin. He had started out on the service of the 
Royal Mail, after long years of waiting had received a ship, 
and on the second run had gone ashore on an uncharted 


" TEE DAEIEN " 95 

bar off the coast of Africa. He had been completely exon- 
erated by the board of inquiry. But little good that does a 
captain. The iron law of the sea says that once a skipper 
has put his ship ashore, he is a broken man. A dozen 
investigating committees may report him blameless, may 
praise his bravery and cool-headed ability he is black- 
listed at Lloyds. No company which insures its ships can 
afford to employ him. So our captain had been forced out 
of the beaten paths, into the by-ways of the sea. During 
the Russo-Japanese War, he had enlisted in the Mikado's 
service. After peace had been re-established, he had drifted 
about from one tramp steamer to another, at last to get 
command of the minute Veraguas. 

So slipping along through the motionless sea, our mast 
barely missing the immense and imminent disk of the 
moon, we sat half the night, listening to bizarre tales of the 
China Sea, the Blockade of Vladivostok, pearl smuggling, 
Boxer pirates and Dyak head-hunters. Even Robert, the 
Well-Beloved, failed to get from his magic pen an adequate 
picture of the glamor and romance of night on the Southern 
Sea so what's the use? 

I woke up to find that we were rounding Brava Point in 
the Gulf of San Miguel. The expanse of water about us 
was the first of the Pacific Ocean seen by European eyes 
from America. On one of those mountains in the long chain 
which formed the horizon on the left Balboa, near four 
centuries ago, accomplished fame, when 

. . . . with eagle eyes 
He stared at the Pacific and all his men 
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise 
Silent, upon a peak in Darien." 

Somewhere along that white sandy beach on St. Michael's 
Day (September 29), 1513, he strode into the water to his 
waist and flaunted abroad the banner of Castile and Leon. 


Time has rotted away the wooden cross they erected, to 
the wonder of the Indians. The tooth of Time has bitten 
deep into the sovereignty of the royal house of Spain 
which was growing so mightily in those days. Only the 
name "Golfo de San Miguel" which he gave the place 
has remained. Also in memory of his great discovery, the 
name of Balboa has been given to the busy port thirty miles 
up the coast, the terminus of the great canal which is to be 
a place where they built ships which would as much have 
amazed Balboa as his musquettes did the Indians. 

Somewhere across this placid bay, Balboa ventured forth 
in a native canoe most probably the Indian cayukas of 
to-day are no bigger than those the first Spaniards found. 
Galvano, an old chronicler, writes : " He embarked himself 
against the will of Chiapes, who was lord of the coast, who 
wished him not to do so, because it was dangerous for him. 
But he, desirous to have it known that he had been upon 
these seas, went forward, and came back again in safety 
and with great content, bringing with him good store of 
gold, silver, and pearls." 

The view is beautiful and I also returned " with great 
content/' although not with so rich spoils. 

Within the Gulf of San Miguel, the water loses its glori- 
ous blueness. Three mighty rivers, running through allu- 
vial valleys, have turned it into a Missouri brown. 

From Brava Point it is fifteen miles across the mouth of 
the Gulf. Inside it broadens out to twice that width. The 
shores are irregular and there are several islands. The 
channel up the Gulf is twenty miles long. The banks are 
generally precipitous, getting higher as one gets inland. 
There are few signs of human habitation. Here and there 
a break in the dense foliage of the hillsides showed where 
some natives had made a clearing. We passed close to one 
island, but we saw no Indians. 


Beyond the Gulf is the great Darien Harbor. A large 
island, blocking the entrance, separates the two channels, 
the Boca Chica from the Boca Grande. When our battle- 
ships visited the harbor, on their trip around the world, 
they used the Boco Grande. This channel is not only the 
deeper, but also the longer. The native boats all use the 
Boco Chico. The banks at the head of the Gulf are hidden 
by mangrove swamps. The entrance to this narrow pas- 
sage is invisible to uninitiated eyes. When our captain 
threw the head of the boat around, I thought he had a 
brain-storm and was running us aground. A few yards 
from the shore, the opening suddenly appears. The channel 
is about three hundred feet wide and not a quarter of a mile 
long. Once headed into it, we shot through on the tide at 
incredible speed. 

Before I realized that we had entered the passage, we 
were slowing down in the placid water of the harbor. 

The spring tide rises nearly twenty feet. Darien Harbor 
is thirty miles long, and averages ten in width. A tremen- 
dous amount of water considerably more than a cubic mile 
of it has to rush through those two narrow mouths every 
six hours. I doubt if the famous tides of the Bay of Fundy 
run any stronger. 

William Dampier, who, besides being a pirate of parts, 
was a keen observer of geography, has left this account of the 
place as he found it two centuries ago: 

"The Gulf of St. Michael ... is a place, where 
many great rivers having finished their course, are swal- 
lowed up in the sea. ... On either side the Gulf 
runs in towards the land somewhat narrower, and makes 
five or six small islands, and good channels between the 
islands; beyond which, further in still, the shore on each 
side closes so near with two points of low mangrove land as 
to make a narrow or strait, scarce half a mile wide. This 


serves as a mouth or entrance to the inner part of the 
Gulf, which is a deep bay, two or three leagues on every way; 
and about the east end thereof are the mouths of several 
rivers, the chief of which is that of Santa Maria; this is 
the way that the privateers have generally taken as the 
nearest between the North and South Seas. The river of 
Santa Maria is the largest of all the rivers of this gulf; it is 
navigable eight or nine leagues up, for so high the tide 
flows. Beyond that place the river is divided into many 
branches, and is only fit for canoes; the tide rises and falls 
in this river about eighteen feet." 

Around a corner of headland, just after entering the 
harbor, our boat stopped at the picturesque little town of 
La Palma. It is built on a very steep hillside. The houses 
on the water front are perched on twenty-foot piles almost 
awash when the tide is in and high, and dry when it falls. 

I counted about two hundred roofs, of which ten or fif- 
teen were of corrugated iron a sign and criterion of prog- 
ress. El Real de Santa Maria, a town which we visited later, 
has less than half of its roofs of the old-fashioned thatch. 
The Alcalde boasted to me about it. I suppose corrugated 
iron roofs are a sign of progress in Panama, just as tunnels 
are in New York, but I prefer thatch and ferries. 

In La Palma happened to me an amazing adventure. 
I cheated a native! In any place of Spanish civilization, 
this is something to boast of. It works the other way 
around with such sickening regularity. 

My friend and I went ashore in one of the native cayukas 
a ride of not more than two minutes. When we stepped 
ashore the boatman calmly demanded one peso apiece. As 
a general rule, I think that in a strange country, where you 
do not know the language very well, it is wise to allow your- 
self to be robbed without making an uproar. Otherwise 
you lose your breath as well as your money. But there are 

" THE DAEIEN " 99 

limits, and this seemed to be one of them. So individually 
and collectively, we yelled all the mean things we knew in 
Spanish at that cayuka man. He disappeared on a run. 

"Gone for the Alcalde and the police," my friend re- 

"Well, let's get a look at the town before they lock us 
up," I said. 

We strolled around for half an hour, expecting trouble 
every minute. When there was no more to be seen, we 
went down to the shore, and another cayuka man offered 
to take us both out for four reals. So back we went to the 
boat, without having paid any fare for the ride ashore. 

'I think the first boatman must have had a stroke. We 
expected to see him waiting for us with a warrant when we 
put in at La Palnia on the return trip. For a month after- 
wards I expected to have him turn up in Panama. But I 
never saw him again. He is the only Panamanian who ever 
let me get by him without paying. 

The cruise up the harbor was delightful. The hills come 
down sheer to the water's edge, their sides thick with heavy 
timber. Three different species of lignum vitce each with 
its own color were in bloom. Blossoming hybiscus, like 
Fourth of July red-fire, was everywhere. And most gor- 
geous of all were the Royal Poincianas or Peacock flowers. 
A few islands, also bright with blossoms, broke the expanse 
of water in just those places which would have been chosen 
by a Japanese landscape gardener. 

Perched on one promontory is the large country place of 
a Panama merchant. It looks desolately alone. The shores 
of such a body of water in a less torrid clime would be 
crowded with summer houses. 

A few hours beyond La Palma, we passed the mouth of 
the Rio Las Savanahs. It looks as broad as the Mississippi 
and very much more sluggish. The entrance to the river is 


almost choked with water lilies, only a narrow channel is 
left free. For a mile on either side of it, the green pads of 
the leaves which are not very large, but innumerable 
entirely hide the water. There were thousands and thou- 
sands of small white and golden blossoms. The air was 
heavy with their fragrance. 

Beyond this river the harbor begins to narrow rapidly. 
About four in the afternoon, we anchored for half an hour 
off the little village of Chepigana. Of its fifty houses only 
the barn-like trading station had a corrugated iron roof. 
This little place and La Palma are the only towns on all the 
coast of this great bay. 

Twilight was just beginning when we reached the head of 
the harbor and the mouth of the Tuyra River in Dampier's 
day the Spaniards called it the Rio del Santa Maria del 
Darien. We steamed up it as far as we could before night- 

Here we began to meet cayukas loaded with Cholo In- 
dians. They are of the same squat, square-faced breed as 
those to be seen in the western provinces. But they seem 
much less touched by civilization. The men seldom wore 
more than a breech-cloth. The prevailing mode among the 
women was a short skirt, hardly more than a fringe. In 
fact, the children, who wore nothing at all, wore very little 
less than their elders. 

Our boat followed a tortuous course, now close to one 
shore, now to the other. And ever as we proceeded, we 
were disturbing the innumerable birds who were set- 
tling down for the night. The aigrette herons were a sight 
worth all the long journey. There were hundreds of them, 
and they are the whitest things which live. None of the 
other animals which we call "white" polar bears, white 
elephants, silver foxes are really white. But these herons 
are as dazzlingly white as the crest of Mont Blanc at noon. 

Photo f>y 1'ishbaitgh. 


Photo by Fishbauzh. 


" THE DAEIEN " 101 

In zoological gardens, herons and flamingoes and all that 
genera of birds seem awkward and unlovely. They need 
their native setting. These tropical rivers are their real 
home. As our steamer fumed up the river, it disturbed them 
mightily. As far as I could see ahead of us, was a string of 
them on either side, flying sleepily up stream to escape us. 
There is an unspeakable beauty in the moth-like way they 
flap their ghostly wings, outlined so strikingly against the 
dead green of the river banks. When it became too dark 
for navigation, we dropped anchor and let them sleep. 

It was too hot to sleep in the cabin, so we swung our 
hammocks on deck. I find going to sleep in a hammock 
an easy habit to acquire. But how to wake up with any 
degree of grace or dignity is an art which requires long 

I have a vague recollection of opening one eye and realiz- 
ing with profound satisfaction that there was yet at least 
an hour before dawn. The next thing I knew was a fusillade 
from the after deck. It was not just one shot it sounded 
like platoon firing. I woke with a start and tried to jump 
out of bed, but I was in a hammock, and could not. There 
was nothing to set foot on. I kicked out wildly, expecting 
to strike the floor. I only barked my shins on a stanchion. 
At this stage of the affair, a field gun came to the support 
of the rifle brigade, and the string which held up the mos- 
quito netting broke and I tumbled four feet onto the deck. 
It was probably fifteen minutes before I got myself untan- 
gled and reached the after deck. 

Every man on board with a firearm was pumping lead 
into the mud flats left bare by the receding tide. Rifles, 
revolvers, automatic pistols! The captain had an English 
elephant gun, which I had mistaken for a field-piece. I 
followed the line of his aim, and could see nothing until 
he fired then a great red chasm opened in the mud. It 


was the mouth of an alligator. I have never seen any j 
thing in nature which has carried "protective imitation" 
as far as these saurians. Half a dozen men were standing 
about me, shooting right and left, and I could see nothing 
but mud. It was several minutes before my eyes caught the 
trick of seeing them. Then I ran for my gun and joined in 
the slaughter. 

From the ordinary point of view there is no sport in shoot- 
ing alligators. They lie quiet a too easy mark and unless 
the bullet penetrates the brain, it is impossible to get them. 
They waddle down to the water and slip in. A day or two 
later their dead bodies come up somewhere down stream. 

There is, however, a great temptation to find out whether 
it really is an alligator or just a hunk of mud on the bank 
or a dead log floating down stream. The only way to make 
sure is to shoot. It is a good betting game, for even the 
Indians will sometimes be fooled. 

As soon as the tide began to come in, we lifted anchor 
and continued up stream. There is a never flagging fas- 
cination to river navigation. At sea, if it is rough, it is 
uncomfortable, and if it is smooth, it is monotonous. Here 
every turn brought a new vista. Sometimes the jungle 
trees scraped the upper works of the boat. There was al- 
ways the chance of seeing a monkey or a paroquet or a 
cayuka full of Indians. 

About noon we dropped anchor in the channel off El 
Real del Santa Maria. It was in this progressive little 
town that the Alcalde proudly pointed out the two score 
corrugated iron roofs. There was also a two-story munici- 
pal building to boast of and a new billiard table. 

Here we unloaded three Chinamen who were going on a 
trading expedition up the Chucunaque River, which joins 
the Tuyra just below El Real. They caused great excite- 
ment, for, in trying to keep down their expenses, they put 

" THE DARIEN " 103 

all their worldly goods into one cayuka. I think another 
half pound would have sent it to the bottom. Once they 
had cast off from the Veraguas and saw how precarious was 
their position, the three of them began to chant their funeral 
dirge. All the good people of El Real, attracted by the un- 
earthly noise, rushed out to the river bank. One of the 
passengers bet me a peso that they would sink. It did 
not look like a good bet to me, but I had stuck him every 
time on the alligator game, so took him on. By the very 
narrowest margin, the Celestials reached the shore in 
safety. When the passenger paid me the peso, he wanted 
to bet me that he would die inside of a year. 

"You've got such a luck, you can't lose," he said. "I'd 
feel better than if my life was insured." 

Two twists of the river, above El Real, we ran into a mud 
bank. There was nothing to do but twirl our thumbs for 
six hours till a new tide lifted us off. 

The geological formation of this district is very inter- 
esting. In some prehistoric time, it was a country of high 
mountains and deep, precipitous valleys. Then in some 
great convulsion, it all sank so that the original bed of the 
valleys was several hundred feet below sea level. The 
rivers have washed down an alluvial deposit and filled up 
the old valleys. 

Fifty miles up, the Tuyra is still at sea level. Marri- 
ganti, the head of navigation, has a tide of eight or ten feet. 
On either side of the river are broad mud flats, heavily 
overgrown with jungle. The surface is not five feet above 
high tide in the dry season, and it is continually drowned 
in the wet. If some system of Holland dykes could be in- 
stalled and these bottomlands kept dry, they would be 
immensely fertile. 

While we were stuck on that mud bank, fighting mosqui- 
toes, an incident illustrative of the all-pervasiveness of 


progress occurred. One of the deck-hands, who looked like 
an Italian, was enlivening his job of stitching a patch on a 
pair of overalls, by singing the Duke's song from "Rigo- 
letto." And he sang it well. He had a rich baritone. His 
voice had evidently not been trained, but he sang true. 
Sitting there on a dry-goods case, beating time against it 
with his bare heels, he threw into his singing a large measure 
of the nonchalance, the very spirit of the song, which so 
often is lacking in the performance of professionals. 

"Now, listen to that," the captain said. "That's the 
real Latin for you. Music born in him. I don't suppose 
he can read or write. But once when he was a little shaver, 
back in Italy, his father took him to the opera in Naples, 
and he heard some great artist sing that. And he remem- 
bers it still. Sings it down here in the jungle, without any 
accompaniment but his heels, a lot better than an English 
or American university man could sing it with an orches- 

"Let's get him to tell us about it," I suggested. 

The captain called him up and asked him where he was 

"New York," he said. 

"Mulberry Street?" I asked. 


"Where did you learn that song?" 

"Oh! That? That's a Caruso song. I learned it out of 
a phonograph." 

"If I hear you singing that again, I'll kick you over- 
board!" the captain said, in disgust. But I was so delighted 
at the skipper's discomfort that I gave the boy the peso I 
had won on the Chinamen. 

Marriganti, where we arrived a couple of hours after the 
tide lifted us over the bar, is the station of the Darien Gold 
Mining Company. Our cargo was principally machinery 

" THE DABIEN " 105 

for their new plant. It was to be taken up stream in small 
boats and then, by miniature railroad, to the mine site. 

We also had a large consignment of goods for up-river 
traders, cases of nails, boxes of starch and sugar, bags of 
coffee and salt, bolts of cloth. Every civilized country in 
the world was represented in that merchandise. Some of the 
people up river are Germans, for we unloaded several cases 
of Augustiner Brau from Munich. 

Here at Marriganti we met the first white man since leav- 
ing Panama. He was an Italian, in charge of the mining 
company's station. We had letters of introduction to him, 
and he started in to perform the rites of hospitality by mix- 
ing what he called a " Nitroglycerine cocktail." He said it 
was so strong that if you dropped a cigarette ash into it, it 
would blow the roof off. When he found out that we did 
not care to get drunk with him, he lost all interest in us, 
and went surlily about the business of unloading his consign- 
ment of machinery. I once met a Belgian judge from the 
Congo Free State, who said the only objection he had to his 
post was that there was no opportunity to get drunk with a 
white man. This Italian of Marriganti is in the same fix. 
For the population of El Real and La Palma seems to be 
pure Nubian. They are descendants of the colonial slaves. 
A few West Indian negroes have drifted into the district. 
They are mostly men who were stranded on the Isthmus 
when the French canal company failed. They are indis- 
tinguishable from the natives except when they startle 
you by speaking English. 

The trip down stream was uneventful. At La Palma 
we picked up a cargo of lumber and the Bishop of Panama 
and his retinue. He was a picturesque type in his frayed 
and faded purple. His face was round and wrinkled and 
amiable. In his youth he had been a scholar and had trav- 
elled widely. He seemed pleased to talk to a foreigner. 


He was curious to know if the "modernism" heresy was 
making headway in America. I asked him if it was troub- 
ling Panama, and he said: "Alas, no! My clergy are too 
ignorant. They have not heard of it." But his English 
was decidedly rusty, and I think he got his "Alas" in the 
wrong place. 

We slipped through the Boca Chica with the last of the 
tide and the last of the sun. All the way down the Gulf 
of San Miguel, we had to fight for every inch against the 
rush of the flow. 

As soon as night fell, we were treated to a gorgeous dis- 
play of phosphorescence. It is a different species of ani- 
malcule which sets the sea ablaze in these waters from 
what one sees at Nassau and Bermuda. Instead of sparkles 
in the water, there is an undifferentiated glow. Their light 
is a soft electric blue, like what one sees when the sun shines 
through a mass of ice. 

The minute little creatures only turn on their light when 
disturbed. Probably only a very small proportion of them 
ever do light up. Ships pass through these waters rarely, 
and their only other cause of fear are the rapacious fish. 
Often far out from the ship, the black water would blaze 
out with a streak of light where the fin of some marauder 
cut the surface. 

Their glow is a symptom of distress. But I think that 
if I were one of them, I would pray to be frightened at least 
once in my life. With such potentiality of glory, it would 
be dismal indeed to die without having ever blazed forth. 

The friend who was with me is a rich man. I am never 
quite at ease when I think of next month's rent. The glow 
of these marine fireflies lit up his face as he leaned over the 
rail beside me. When he spoke, I understood why his bank 
account was more substantial than mine. While I had been 
foolishly trying to humanize these brilliant infusoria, wast- 

" THE DAEIEN " 107 

ing time in imagining for them a soul tragedy, his mind had 
been bent to practical things. 

"If I knew how to do what those bugs are doing," he said, 
"I'd make a fortune. They are generating light without 
heat. A real phosphorescent lamp a good light without 
heat is worth a million easy." 

It was still deep night when we anchored off San Miguel, 
the principal village of the largest of the Pearl Islands. 
A pinace went ashore with the monthly bag of mail, but there 
was no chance to land. The dawn when the sun came up 
out of the sea among the islands was glorious beyond for- 
getting. It was noon before we passed the last of the 
islands. Browning speaks of "the sprinkled isles, lily on 
lily, that o'erlace the sea and laugh their pride when the 
light waves lisp 'Greece'." If lilies are the flowers which 
picture the Greek isles, one would have to work cocoanut 
palms into the figure to conjure up these Pearl Islands. 
They stick in the mind as the symbol of the tropics, all the 
world around. They are at their most unforgettable best 
when mingled with a sea scene. There are hundreds of 
big and little islands in this group each with its own dis- 
tinctive bunch of cocoa-palms, waving against the horizon. 

The beauty of the Royal Palm is architectural ; they are 
attractive only when arranged in geometrical' design living 
Doric columns of a formal peristyle. The charm of the 
cocoanut palm is unconventional, personal. But, as I said 
before, even Stevenson could not get the grace of the south- 
ern seas down on paper. 

As the islands dropped astern, Panama called our atten- 
tion over the bow. It is a beautiful city from the sea 
beautiful still in spite of the scar made by the American 
quarry on Ancon Hill and the smudge of smoke from the 
machine shops and shipping of Balboa. 



IT was the quest for gold which brought the first white 
man to the Isthmus of Panama. The same "execrable sed 
d'oro" as the brave old missionary, Fray Bartholome" Las 
Casas, called it was the motor power of Balboa and Piz- 
arro. Gold built old Panama City. Gold was the bait 
which drew the buccaneers. And again it was the thirst 
for gold Californian gold which woke the Isthmus from its 
forgotten sleep in '49 and made it once more the World's 
great Short Cut. 

In 1911 there is but one gold mine in profitable operation 
in the Republic the Darien Gold Mining Company at 
Cana, close to the Colombian border. 

But the " sed d'oro " is still a motor power on the Isthmus. 
Any day you can find some more or less sane looking indi- 
vidual in the barroom of the "Metropole" or the "Pana- 
zone" who has a gold project to share with you. 

There is a man who in some indefinite way discovered 
in the moldy archives of Madrid a letter from a monk of 
Old Panama which tells where the rich treasures of the 
Monastery of San Francisco were buried at the time of 
Morgan's raid. The list of jewels and plate reads like an 
inventory of the Cave of the Forty Thieves. Only a few 
thousand dollars is needed to discover the hiding place. 

A large outfit is now at work in the Province of Chiriqui 
trying to relocate the old "Tisangel" mine. The bullion 
records of the Spanish archives show that this was one of 
the richest mines they discovered in the Americas. The 



methods of the Conquistadores were very crude and a modern 
engineer could make large profits working over their waste. 
This outfit has plenty of money and intend to find the old 
vein if it takes a decade. They are running five-foot con- 
tour lines over a large area which means in surveyor's 
jargon that they are using a fine-tooth comb. 

Then there is an endless stream of prospectors, men of 
every nationality and color, men who have followed the 
scent from Australia to Alaska. They come out of the 
jungle sallow with fever, gaunt from hunger, with a sack 
of "dust" or a sample of quartz. All they need is a little 
capital to open an El Dorado. They are more than anxious 
to share their enterprise with you. 

That gold is widely distributed on the Isthmus is beyond 
dispute. Columbus found the natives wearing gold orna- 
ments. The early Spaniards stole immense quantities of it. 
And when this bonanza gave out they began digging them- 
selves. The archives are explicit on this subject. Even 
more conclusive are the reports of many reliable experts. 
Placer gold has been located in hundreds of places; veins of 
quartz have been charted which assay as high as twenty dol- 
lars a ton. 

But only the Darien Company pay regular dividends. 

The labor costs are prohibitive. The natives will not 
work steadily. The Spaniards got around this difficulty by 
the simple expedient of slavery. But this method has gone 
out of fashion. Imported labor crumples up before the 
manifold fevers of the jungle. It is impossible, in the 
absence of roads and bridges, to install machinery or pro- 
vision a large camp ten miles from navigable water. The 
Darien Company is in an unusually salubrious region and 
within striking distance of the great Tuyra River. It is the 
proverbial exception. Yet the thirst for gold is unslackable. 
And a new company is launched every few weeks. 


The present status of mining on the Isthmus was care- 
fully explained to me by a Mr. Moody, a man heavily inter- 
ested in fruit-growing. Long residence in Central America 
has given him an intimate knowledge of conditions. 

"Not for mine," he said. "I suppose I've turned down 
a couple of million mining propositions." 

"Have none of them panned out?" I asked. 

"One. I might have got into a Honduras mine which is 
paying. But I'm a business man not a gambler. If I was 
a gambler I'd hit the roulette wheel, where the chances are 
only 32 to 1 against you." 

About a week later I met Moody in the Cathedral Plaza. 

"Well," he said with a sheepish grin, "I've just bought a 
gold mine." 

A negro, named Pedro, who had once worked for him, 
had come that morning to his office with a bag full of sam- 
ples black sand and quartz. He had staked out a claim 
on the head waters of the Rio Obre* on the Atlantic slope. 
He had made a preliminary denouncement and had come 
to Moody to borrow money to pay the fee necessary to gain 
permanent possession. The samples, when submitted to a 
mining engineer named Duncan, had assayed very high. 
The two white men had advanced the necessary money for a 
controlling interest in the enterprise. Duncan was going up 
in a few days to look over the claim. 

It was part of the country very rarely visited by foreigners 
so I went along. 

"Roughing it" would be an insultingly inadequate term 
for that expedition. 

As it was just before Easter our little boat was vastly 
overcrowded. There were twenty bunks aboard and thirty 
women and as many men. The berths were allotted to the 
women in the order of their social standing, an easy matter 
to determine in Panama, for the ladies use perfume instead 

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood. 



of soap. The Upper Ten use attar of roses. The Four 
Hundred take to heliotrope from the world famous atelier 
of M. Rouget. It costs in Panama five pesos for a very 
small bottle. And so on down the social ladder to the hoi 
polloi who use a greenish-yellow smell at one peso the gallon. 
The extra ten women and all the men were stowed away in 

To add to the discomfort we had no sooner passed beyond 
the shelter of the Taboga Islands when we ran into one of 
the very rare storms which visit those parts. 

I have crossed the Black Sea in a Russian boat over- 
loaded with Moslem pilgrims for Mecca. I have crossed 
from Tangier to Gibraltar in the dinky little Djibel Dersa 
with a gale blowing out of the west. The waves rising higher 
and higher all the way across the Atlantic get frightfully 
mussed up when they enter the funnel of Trafalgar Bay and 
the Straits. And I have seen the bottom nearly blown out 
of the barometer off Cape Hatteras. I thought I knew what 
it was to be tossed about. But I did not. 

Our little coastwise steamer was built to cross the bars 
which form at the mouths of tropical rivers, and if she was 
loaded with lead to her funnel she would not draw eight 
feet. In the morning my knees and elbows were black and 
blue where the rolling of the ship had swung my hammock 
into the ceiling. 

A little after sun-up we swung into the placid, sluggish 
Rio Grande and an hour and a half up stream we came to a 
pier and a corrugated iron storehouse called Puerto Passado. 
The steamer can only get up on the crest of the tide, and for 
six hours it rests its flat bottom on the mud, waiting the 
next tide to go out. 

We found Pedro on the dock waiting for us with three 
of the sorriest looking horses it has ever been my misfor- 
tune to encounter. But even these sick, mangy, ulcerated 


brutes were welcome. For the water was falling rapidly 
and a tropical river with the tide out is the most desolate 
spectacle on earth. There is a revolting lewdness in the 
naked slimy roots of the mangrove swamp on either side. 
The bottomless mud of the river bed is like a nightmare 
from Dore's " Inferno." Here and there a hump of muddier 
looking mud moves sluggishly it takes a decided effort of 
the will to believe that it really is an alligator. It would 
be much easier not to believe that such things live in such 
a place. 

Penonome*, the capital of the Province of Code, is only 
thirteen miles inland from Puerto Passado, but with Pedro's 
horses it took us three hours. 

It is a typical Central America town a plaza and church 
and barn-like government building in the center, a circle 
of whitewashed, red-tiled adobe* houses, and on the edge 
an irregular cluster of native "ranches," built of cane and 
thatch. It is impossible to say where the town ends and the 
jungle begins. 

We had intended to lay in our provisions here, but Pedro 
told us it would be unnecessary. While prospecting on his 
claim he had taken to his bosom a widow and her farm. 
We would stop the first night with a family of his friends, 
and the next be at his place, where the fatted calf would be 
waiting us already dressed in pepper-sauce. So all we did was 
to secure some real horses and buy some salt a present much 
prized by the CHolo Indians some cans of butter and jam. 

A friend of Pedro brought us some news which promised 
excitement. While he had been in Panama his claim had 
been "jumped." Three Americans, with a Mexican woman 
who passed as their cook, had drifted into Penonome* a few 
days after Pedro's departure. They heard of his strike, 
bribed the Alcalde and denounced the same claim. Then 
they went out to look it over. 


The Alcalde was much disturbed by our appearance. 
He had thought that he had no one to deal with except 
the negro, Pedro, who was evidently too poor a person to 
make trouble. But Duncan is a man of some prominence 
in Panama, on friendly terms with the Administration. 
The speed with which the Alcalde got down on his knees 
was amazing. 

As we started out the next morning, Pedro's friend told 
us that the Alcalde had despatched a messenger during the 
night to warn the claim-jumpers. 

But we had hardly gone a mile from Penonome" when all 
speculation about the disposition of the intruders was 
driven from mind by the immediate difficulty of the trail. 
It was at the height of the dry season and the best time of 
year for inland travel. During the eight months of rain 
the way would have been utterly impassable. Duncan had 
prospected all over the Rockies, he had run an asbestos 
mine at the bottom of the Grand Canon and had lived for 
years in Nicaragua. He said he had never seen a worse trail. 
It would be nearer the truth to say it was no trail at all. It 
is, however, marked on the Government map "comino 

I found out afterwards that it was a beautiful and inter- 
esting country through which we passed. But on that 
trip I saw nothing but the tail of my horse. Once in every 
few hours we would come to a bit of " Savannah" where 
we could get on and k ride and breathe. But most of it 
was foot work, pushing the beasts up a fifty per cent, mud 
grade or shoving them down one that was worse. Wading 
neck deep in a river to find a ford was a pleasant relief. 
I could not make up my mind which was worse, prying the 
horses out of quagmires or the machete work when we 
had to slash a passage through the jungle to get past some 
impossible barrier. 


I remember once we had just dragged the horses up a 
long hill which was about as good going as climbing the wall 
of the hot room in a Turkish bath and a mile long. I leaned 
up against a giant lignum vitce tree, its wide spreading 
branches gorgeous with wistaria-colored blossoms. Wiping 
the perspiration out of my eyes, I could look out over a wide 
valley, half the tree tops in bloom. Ten feet away from me 
hung a giant "Annunciation" orchid, white as the wings of 
the Archangel. I was about to remark, "By Jove! this is 
glorious," when there was a snap and a clatter. The cinch 
had broken! My companions were already a good ways 
down the trail. And by the time I had the pack rearranged 
on the horse they were out of sight, and I had no time to 
enjoy the view. 

The sun had already gone down when we reached the 
"rancho" where we were to pass the night. I have a vague 
memory of hanging my hammock, of eating a sort of stew 
which Pedro called a "Sancochi" and said was good and of 
a dog who bayed intermittently the night through. 

We made an early start the next morning. Eleven hours 
more of the trail which was ever just one shade this side of 

In the middle of the afternoon we topped the Continental 
Divide and started down the Atlantic Slope. Our barom- 
eter registered only a little more than one thousand feet. 
But it must have been broken I would have sworn to five 

The Rio Obre was the boundary to Pedro's claim and just 
beyond it we came to the camp of the claim-jumpers. As 
we rode towards their tent they made a demonstration in 

The Mexican girl stood in the background with a Win- 
chester. The three men, looking as bold and bad as they 
knew how, strode out to meet us, making a great show of 


jerking their pistol belts into position. I never saw a more 
melodramatically rigged out bunch of "bad men" off the 
Bowery stage leather "chaps," sombreros, red handker- 
chiefs, mighty spurs. They certainly had made up for the 

The outcome was ludicrous anti-climax. I had never 
realized how utterly dead the Wild West "bad man" is. 
He has crossed the Great Divide into ancient history. 

Duncan tipped me the wink and we threw up our hands 
and cantered towards them. 

"My sons," he said, "I've got a twenty-two single-shot 
target-pistol somewhere in my saddle bags. My friend here 
is unarmed. The coon has a gun but he couldn't hit a 
barn. We're not much on armament, but we've got 
the cash. You bought the Alcalde for twenty pesos. I 
could buy him back for twice as much, but it's cheaper to 
have him fired. Your claim's no good, you can't afford 
to fight in court. Your guns are out-of-date. Money 
talks. You'd better lope. There's lots of trails leading out 
of this place. You might get run in if you hang around. 

Their bold, bad manner wilted. When we passed that 
way again they were gone. 

Although we had so easily brushed aside these desperados 
our troubles had only begun. It was nightfall when we 
reached the end of our journey the farm which Pedro had 
taken to his bosom along with its fair owner. It was 

Pedro said he could not understand it. But it looked 
plain to an outsider. Some handsomer man had come 
along in his absence and waltzed off with the lady. 

The matrimonial arrangement of these people is simple 
or complex, according to your point of view. As nobody 
ever gets married you hear no scandal about bigamy or 


divorce. Pedro himself was not in a position to wail over 
this desertion. I gathered from his camp-fire reminiscences 
that he had been born in British Honduras where he had 
had a "church-wife" and child. He had lived for a while 
in Carthagena where he had left a woman and child, a 
performance which he had repeated in Boca del Toro and 
again here. 

However, we had little time to wonder over Pedro's 
domestic status. We were two days hard riding from the 
nearest store, without adequate provisions and no cooking 
utensils. We burglariously entered the deserted rancho 
I had never realized how sturdily they are built, till I tried 
to break into this one. A careful search revealed two 
broken bowls and some gourd cups. We went over the place 
with a fine tooth comb and our one candle and could find 
no more. We made a shift to boil rice in one of the cracked 
pots. It was a sorry meal ! But we were too tired to worry 
much. In the morning we hoped to find, if not the fatted 
calf, at least some growing vegetables. 

We found nothing. The lady in departing had taken 
everything even digging up the yams. The more we looked 
about, the less tenable our position appeared. As I had not 
been stung by the gold microbe, I was all for a quick retreat 
to our base of supplies. But not so with these prospectors, 
white and black; they had the thirst. They were on the 
scent and a little matter like nothing to eat was a mere 
bagatelle. The prospector's fever is like first love in its 
wild insistency. It is unlike it in that it is just as wild the 
seventy times seventh time as it is the first. 

They scraped together a scant breakfast and off we went. 
It was machete work all the day, except when we waded 
knee-deep in a stream. When we reached the place where 
Pedro had found his samples it was shovel out and intense 
excitement. Duncan held the pan and Pedro filled it with 


gravel and yellow mud. Side by side, on their knees, by 
the edge of the stream they nursed and rocked the pan. 
Gradually the coarse refuse washed away and only the 
coal black sand was left. The tension grew steadily as the 
process continued. The supreme moment comes when you 
drain off the water and look for the "streak." Their two 
pairs of eyes peered over the edge. Yes. There was 
"color!" At the very edge of the handful of black sand 
there were half a dozen specks of dull gold. Even my 
inexperienced eyes could see it. But I hungry and tired 
and ill-tempered pretended not to. How they waved 
their hands and shouted at me! 

All day long the scent held them. Slashing through the 
jungle, clambering over the rocks, wading up the river 
again and again washing out a panful of gravel and always 
vain efforts to make me admit that I saw "color." 

Near the place where the quartz vein cropped out they 
washed one pan of dirt which was really rich. I could see 
twenty or thirty minute specks of gold. Duncan said there 
were fifty "colors." 

"Why," he said, "it's like a star-chart! Can't you see 
them sparkling in the black sand background?" 

They may have sparkled for him, but I was no-end hun- 
gry, having had a poor sort of breakfast and no lunch at all. 

About four o'clock we struck our first and only piece of 
good fortune. In the midst of the jungle we stumbled onto 
a deserted farm. There were some cocoanut palms and some 
yams. With much shooting we knocked down half a dozen 
nuts. We were well supplied with best of sauces, and those 
cocoanuts certainly were welcome. Pedro dug up some 
yams, and we made camp again just at dusk. 

One day of prospecting did not satisfy them, but it was 
enough for me and I spent the next days exploring the 


Close to the deserted "rancho" there was a little river 
with the queer name of the "Rio Brasses de U." Taking 
an early morning bath in it, I suddenly set eyes on a most 
appetizing looking fish. It was a foot and a half long with 
silver scales, splashed with black and red. We were short 
on cooking utensils, but a fish can be planked. A water- 
fall cut off his escape up-stream, I built a makeshift dam 
and weir a hundred feet below where he was so peacefully 
digesting his morning haul of sand flies. A very gorgeous 
paroquet, in a motley of green and scarlet, jeered at me 
from a coco bolo tree. Every time I made a jump at that 
fish he croaked out a phrase in his jungle lingo which sounded 
like, and certainly meant, "Foiled again!" After half an 
hour's splashing about I gave up hope of catching him in 
my hands or spearing him. But I kept at it, hoping to scare 
him to death. But he had nerves of iron. At last I lost 
interest in the fish and began throwing stones at the paro- 
quet. Even a Paris cab-driver could have learned some- 
thing new in profanity by listening to that bird's conversa- 

In the afternoon help came. I was dozing in my ham- 
mock and suddenly awoke with the startled feeling that 
someone was looking at me. In the doorway of the rancho 
was a sour looking old "brave." It gave little comfort to 
remember that the Cholo Indians are a peaceful tribe. 
I had an uncomfortable conviction that he was probably 
the man who had superseded Pedro in the affections of the 
owner of the "rancho." Our right to make free with the 
place was decidedly vague. 

However he was more surprised to see me than I was to 
see him. With my six words of Spanish I soon made peace 
with him. He and his family appeared to be moving. 
There were two women in the party each one had a baby 
astraddle of her hip and the younger one also had a papoose 


strapped to her back. A boy of twelve and a girl of ten 
were superintending the maneuvers of a donkey piled high 
with household goods. By means of slight of hand tricks 
and pantomime and the six Spanish words, I succeeded in 
trading our salt for all the food they had and two usable 

So although I had no planked fish nor paroquet stew for 
the prospectors I managed quite an elaborate supper. 

The Indian family camped with us for the night and by 
despatching the youngster off to a settlement some miles 
away we found fresh eggs and vegetables waiting for our 
breakfast and also three husky young Cholos eager for 
work and a chance to go to town. 

So we took our time on the home trail. And leaving the 
care of the horses and luggage to the Indians were able to 
walk at our ease and enjoy the manifold wonders of the 

Whether or not the samples we brought back to civiliza- 
tion will assay high enough to make the claim valuable, I 
have, of course, no way of knowing. That is a matter for 
experts. But of one thing I am sure. Before machinery 
could be taken up that trail or any sort of a labor camp 
installed, a great many thousands of dollars would have to 
be sunk in road building. 

The memory of those hungry days and that bitter hard 
trail make it easy for me to understand that even in this 
country, where gold is found on every hand, only one mine 
is paying dividends. 



To the lover of our northern woods, the jungle is a never- 
ending surprise. 

There is the old story of the Irishman who went to a 
circus. When he saw the kangaroo he threw up his hands 
and said, "You can't fool me. There ain't no such crea- 
ture." To the person who has never been nearer the tropics 
than the orchid room of some great botanical garden, a trip 
into the jungle is a constant strain on his credulity. 

A hundred times in the interior of Panama my soul has 
longed for Old John Petrie, who knows the north shore of 
Lake Superior with uncanny precision. How utterly he 
would be at sea in a mangrove swamp ! It would have been 
joy unspeakable to watch his woodlore crumple up in a for- 
est where no bark was familiar to this touch, to see him 
helpless in the bottom of a cayuka watching the amazing 
feats of the Cholo Indians poling their heavy dug-out 
against a current just as I have sat in humble admiration 
of his skill in driving a paper-weight birch-bark up the 
rapids of the Sand River. And then I would have had no 
end of evil glee watching the tears of helpless rage in his 
eyes as he turned the edge of that marvellous axe of his 
against an iron-reed or lignum vitce. Anyone who knows 
him or his kind can picture his disgust at having to give it 
up, while the natives brought in the firewood with their 
machetes. How a North Woods guide would despise a 
machete! And how his eyes would pop out when he saw 
what a Spanish-Indian can do with one. 



In one respect the jungle is like the great Sahara or the 
sea. It is a thing of fear and death to the people who 
must live in it. A thing of beauty a rich experience only 
to the traveller who passes through for pleasure. 

There are two old sisters down Cape Cod way who keep 
a summer boarding house. Their guests come to play with 
the ocean, to splash in the surf, to build castles in the sand 
and sail in toy boats. The two old women are fisher folk, 
their father and brothers, the husband and son of one, the 
lover of the other, have been swallowed up in the sea. And 
when their guests, tired of romping with the monster, troop 
up from the beach, laughing, there is a look of concentrated 
horror in the eyes of the sisters. 

It is the same with the jungle. There is a man whom 
you may meet in Panama, yellow with fever, bent and 
twisted with rheumatism, the wreck of a strong man, old 
before his time. He has been defeated in a five-year strug- 
gle with the jungle. He has sunk not only his health and 
his own money, but all he could borrow from friends and 
strangers. He has gone broke in an effort to cash in some 
of the luxuriant wealth of the jungle. He hates the word. 
His scheme sounds perfectly good. As he tells it to you in 
some cafe, despite the gaunt ruin of his face, it sounds good. 
There was no fraud to his failure, no carelessness. He was 
a man used to success, he appreciated all the importance of 
the minute details which go to make it. His scheme was 
well thought out and his face and bent figure show you 
how utterly he spent himself in the enterprise. The jungle 
had made sport of him. Freshets had swept away his 
camp. The thousands he had put into his road had been 
washed out in a night. Three separate times the river had 
upset his canoes, swallowing each time a season's provisions. 
A rare disease, of which only a few cases have been observed 
in Ancon Hospital, killed two of his foremen, one after the 


other. Lightning had smashed a derrick and a donkey- 
engine which he had brought into the jungle with incredible 
exertion. The jungle had said, "No." 

And so at Biskra, on the edge of the desert, one can see 
gaunt-faced, spare-limbed Bedouins looking in uncompre- 
hending wonder at the ecstasy of tourists raving over the 
beauties of their barren, hungry home. The natives of the 
Isthmus do not share my enthusiasm for the jungle. To 
them it means fields which will not stay cleared. Just as 
the Hollander cannot stop work on his dykes, so the Pana- 
manian can never lay down his machete. In three weeks 
his farm would be engulfed. 

The jungle, with all its wondrous beauty, is the enemy 
of the man who works in it. But for the traveller, who has 
a week or so to spare, it offers endless variety, endless in- 
terest and "newness." 

Thousands of tourists visit the Isthmus every year. It 
is remarkable how few of them seize the opportunity for a 
jungle excursion an experience which does not offer itself 
often to the busy American. 

Of course with the wrong equipment one can be just as 
bitterly uncomfortable in the tropics as one would be in 
Greenland in a bathing suit. But with ordinary common- 
sense one can cross the Isthmus anywhere west of the 
Canal Zone with as few hardships as one would expect in 

One wants khaki clothes, as light as is consistent with 
toughness, leggings, a poncho, and a hammock. Above all, 
one must be prepared for the wet. Many of the trails lead 
up the bed of a stream, and in the mountains one must 
expect some rain. 

If you go into the jungle for pleasure, go afoot. What 
look like automobile roads on the map turn out to be steps 
in the hillside and slippery ones. I do not know anything 


more vexatious than a horse without a trail. Two Indians 
can carry more freight than a horse, and will do it cheaper. 
Best of all, they will put on their own packs. The natives 
are not initiated into the mystery of the "diamond hitch," 
or any other hitch for that matter. 

Two tenderfoots ought to be able to make a two weeks 
trip on less than five dollars a day. Unless they can speak 
Spanish fluently, they should hire a "boss" in Panama. 
It is expedient to make your contract explicit and to register 
it at the consulate. The Panamanians have considerable 
skill in charging for extras. It is also well to pay a call of 
respect on the Alcalde of every village you enter. It flatters 
him and puts him on your side in case of a dispute. 

In making out a list of provisions, it is worth while to 
include salt, powder and shot, or knives. They are presents 
much appreciated by the Indians. Needles will win the 
hearts of the older ladies, cheap mirrors those of the belles. 

Once out of sight of the American-built houses of the 
Canal Zone, you enter a wonderland. If you encounter 
any living thing which even remotely resembles any tree 
or beast or bird you ever saw in the States, it is something 
to talk about all day. 

On my first trip into the interior, it was necessary for 
me after a few days to leave the outfit and make my way 
back to civilization alone. It was one of the pleasantest 
days in my memory. There was a bit of excitement to it, 
as I was green to the jungle, did not know the trail and had 
only a few words of Spanish. However, the Indians said 
they could make the distance in five hours, with an early 
start, I had twice as many. And to enjoy nature, or any- 
thing worth while, one must have leisure. 

My horse would have spoiled it all, if it had not been for 
him a home trail. Very little of the way was practicable 
for riding. But as his nose was aimed toward his manger he 


followed readily. At times it was necessary to cut a way for 
him through the jungle, around a fallen tree, a bottomless 
quagmire or other obstacle impossible for a horse, but beyond 
these delays, he bothered me very little. On the out trip, 
going away from his stable, he had been a constant nuisance. 
Most of the time I scouted far enough ahead to find the 
jungle undisturbed by his noise. 

The most striking thing about the jungle, the thing which 
hits you in the face, is the color. There is none of the 
modulation, the melting of one shade into another, of the 

Back of everything is the all-pervading green. So slight 
are the differences in values of the various greens that it is 
almost impossible to get a photograph of tropical foliage. 
No matter how small a diaphragm I used, nor how long the 
exposure, my negatives came out a blank. The ever- 
present background is an almost undifferentiated green. 
And spattered all over it, like a post-impressionist painting, 
are masses of color in most vivid contrasts. And this is 
one of the hard-to-believe things about the jungle these 
slap-dash daubs of lurid yellow, crimson, green and dazzling 
white are beautiful. Somehow the intense southern light 
reduces this unspeakable gaudiness to a rich, but real, har- 
mony. Somehow the jungle, to use theatrical slang, "puts 
over" bizarre color schemes which at home would justify 
homicide. Look through any book on color for a list of 
shades which will not harmonize. You will find them side 
by side in the jungle. I cannot ask you to believe that 
such indecent combinations are beautiful. I could not be- 
lieve it when I saw them, but it is true. 

A few details of that gorgeous tapestry stick in my mem- 
ory. There is a tree its bare stalk, six inches round, rises 
ten or fifteen feet with a crest of giant buttercups, half a 
foot across. There are lignum vitce immense trees, the 


hardest kind of wood that grows whose myriad tiny blos- 
soms are the color of wistaria. There are a dozen flowering 
trees the Royal Poinciana, it is known to people who have 
wintered in Florida. Another its name I could not dis- 
cover which breaks out into great clouds of honey yellow 
you can see them blazing out on the mountain sides miles 
and miles away. 

Side by side these giant flowers of the Eocene, the ten- 
foot festoons of maiden-hairish ferns and Cyclopian tufts 
of grass, there is an innumerable variety of minute flowers. 
There is a tiny hair-like stalk which balances a little bluebell 
no bigger than one blossom of a mignonette. 

And then there are the orchids. A little wax-white blos- 
som of tube rose texture is common, but no orchid can be 
commonplace. Even the simplest of them have an ele- 
ment of mystery, of the unbelievable, about them. The 
natives express this by the names they give them. This 
common white orchid they call "The Tears of the Virgin." 
A red variety they have christened "The Seventh Deadly 
Sin." "The Annunciation," "The Bride of Christ," all the 
names suggest the unearthliness of these air-plants. The 
daffodil-yellow variety, the kind one looks at longingly in 
the florist's shop and, remembering next month's rent, turns 
from to buy her roses, can be found here by the score. 

I encountered one orchid which was new to me, which I 
have never found listed in any catalogue. A thin twisted 
stem, which looked like a telephone wire, hung down ten 
feet or more from a great branch which stretched across the 
trail. Just above my reach, standing in the saddle, was a 
battery of a score of buds, like those of a gladiola. Half of 
them had broken open. The blossoms were unutterably 
red intenser scarlet than the hybiscus. I spent an hour 
trying to encompass its downfall, but old Dame Nature 
had been especially proud of this bit of handiwork and had 


hung it safely out of reach. It was so perfect it would be 
hard to believe in its counterpart. 

Of vines and creepers there is an equally dizzying variety. 
One of them is, I am sure, the original inspiration of the 
"clinging vine" tradition. It kills the tree it grows upon 
not by strangulation, but by smothering. Its leaves grow 
with a precision which seems intelligent. They lay flat on 
the bark of the tree, overlapping each other about a quarter 
of an inch, until they have enveloped the doomed trunk in 
an air tight sheath. And a tree must breathe. 

"Luxuriant" is not a strong enough word to describe the 
vegetation of the jungle. I know no word which is. There 
is a prolificness about it which makes shad roe look like a 
symbol of race suicide. One is oppressed by a feeling that 
the jungle is continually giving birth that it is guilty of 
mad, ungoverned spawning. Death comes to the things 
of the jungle, not so much from extraneous accident as from 
the sheer pressure of birth. The new is pushing into life 
with such indecent haste, such irresistible insistence, that 
nothing has a chance to reach a ripe maturity. The rot- 
ting leaves underfoot seem to have been only half developed. 

So strenuous is the vegetable life, that animals are crowded 
out. The largest quadruped is a stunted deer. Most of the 
fauna are pre-glacial types which have persisted in degen- 
erate form. Walking along the trail that day I encountered 
a tapir. It seemed a dwarf strayed out of the Age of Mam- 
moths. It is the same with the iguana. They are often 
referred to as the "giant lizard." I have seen several in 
the jungle, two and three one close to five feet long. 
But they are "giants" only because the day of lizards is 
gone. They are degenerate offspring of monsters which 
have long since passed away. Even the representatives of 
the cats which the natives call a "tiger" is a puny thing. 

But if the plants have preempted the ground space, to 


the exclusion of the prouder animal forms, the air is free 
for abundant insect life. You cannot walk ten feet without 
crossing the trail a well-beaten path of some variety of 
ants. The tropics are the happy hunting grounds of the 
entomologists. Mr. Busck, a unit in the Biological Survey, 
which the Smithsonian Institution is making on the Canal 
Zone, has collected several thousand varieties of moths 
from the ghostly venus moth to the minute, almost micro- 
scopic species, which are his special interest. I have been 
afield with Professor Schwartz, the beetle-man of the 
Survey. I recall one time when he spread a sheet under a 
low-hanging palm blossom. He struck the great pod with 
the flat of his machete and the sheet was covered with 
hurrying, scurrying life. Over forty varieties of bugs had 
fallen out of that one flower. 

Details all these things I have recounted! They are 
the proverbial trees which distract the view from the 
forest. Back of them all stands the jungle, an entity, one 
and indescribable. I think everyone who has ever entered 
the jungle has felt it as a personality hardly lovable, but 
infinitely fascinating. No one can escape the spell of its 
beauty, a beauty rich and luxuriant and threatening, a 
beauty underlaid with dread it is something like a tiger's 
paw, rich in color, caressingly soft and dangerous. If you 
could make a woman out of the ideals of Rubens, da Vinci 
and Manet she a compound of the exuberant vulgarity of 
the Dutchman's nymphs, of Mona Lisa's exotic, ineffable 
smile, and of the cold cruelty of "Olympia" she would 
have the charm I spoke of. But no painter ever put such 
a woman on canvas. No writer has, or ever will, give an 
adequate description of the jungle. 

One experience stands out, from all my memories of the 
jungle, like a vignette. 

Working my way along the unknown trail that day I 


questioned the few people I met about the directions. At 
one time I passed a field where an Indian and his wife and 
several children were at work, but too far from the path 
to be hailed. A little beyond them I came to more open 
country and a chance to ride and then the trail forked. 
Whether to turn to the right or left I had no way of know- 
ing. Should I go back the half mile and ask or take a 
chance? I pitched a penny and took the right-hand road. 
But a pitched penny has its limitations as an oracle and I 
was not at all sure that I had been wise in blindly accepting 
its advice. But hardly a hundred yards beyond the fork 
I came to a clearing and a rancho. In a little lean-to kitchen 
a girl of about sixteen was pounding rice. Like all the 
Indian women outside of towns she wore only a meagre 
skirt. At sight of a stranger, she gave a dismayed squeal 
and darted into the house. I did not want to frighten her, 
but I did want to know if I was on the right trail. I rode 
up to the house and without dismounting, I hailed her. 

" Buenos dios, Senorita." 

No reply. Through some crevice in the wattle wall of 
the rancho, I knew she was watching me. I endeavored to 
assume a harmless expression. " Senorita," I called again. 

No reply. Well, if she was going to be obstinate, I could 
be as stubborn as any Cholo Indian. So I sat tight and 
waited. I could feel her eyes spying at me. After awhile 
she seemed reassured and peeked around the door post and 
asked what I wanted. 

"Is this the main trail?" I asked. 

If all I wanted was to inquire my way, she decided that 
she had nothing to fear and came out on the threshold. 

"Si, Senor. . . ." And then a string of rapid Span- 
ish which I guessed to be detailed directions but which I 
could not understand. 

I asked her to speak slowly told her that I knew very 


little Spanish. Her big eyes opened wider. I suppose she 
had never known of anyone, except new-born babies, who 
could not talk fluently. I tried to explain the situation to 
her, telling her that I was a Gringo and came from another 
country very far away. But this was entirely beyond her 
comprehension. The pitying look came to her face which 
we use on the hopelessly insane. I doubt if she had seen 
six white men in her life and they had all been able to 
talk. But she had seen Indians who had been touched by 
God loko and I was more like them than the Spaniards. 

No one likes to be thought crazy, and besides she was a 
very pretty youngster. The face of the Cholos is broader 
than we like, the bodies of the older folk are heavy and 
squat. But this slip of a girl might well have served as 
model to some dainty eighteenth-century painter. 

I tried desperately to appear intelligent. I succeeded in 
asking her if she had any oranges or bananas. Yes. She 
had a tree full of oranges back of the rancho. The way she 
went up that tree was a wonder to see. She had all the 
agility, but none of the ungracefulness, of a monkey. I 
could not think of the Spanish word for " enough" or 
"stop," and she threw down almost two dozen. I tied up 
my horse and sat down at the foot of a cocoanut palm and 
began to eat. I tried to get her to join me. But I sup- 
pose an Indian woman does not eat in the presence of the 
Lord of Creation. She squatted down a little way apart 
and watched me closely. I think she was wondering if I 
was crazy enough to try to eat with my ear. 

Whenever I could think of two Spanish words which hang 
together I would say them. At first she took it very sol- 
emnly, but after awhile some of my incongruous output 
twitched her sense of humor, and she laughed. And that 
is a notable thing about primitive peoples, they have not 
learned to cut themselves up into fractions. A civilized 


woman can laugh with her eyes, or her lips, while her shoul- 
ders droop mournfully. But this little Minnehaha laughed 
all over her knees, her toes, her whole body wriggled with 
mirth. And somehow it relieved the depression of my 
spirit. Even if she did think I was an imbecile, she evi- 
dently considered me an amusing one. That was some 

She brought me a calabash of spring water for a finger 
bowl. I pleased her mightily with the gift of a little round 
looking-glass and so rode away. 

I know she will treasure the mirror, and when she admires 
herself in it, she will remember me. There is something 
warming in the thought that I will be often in her mind. 
I wonder if she tells everybody about the crazy Gringo who 
made her laugh. I have a feeling that she has kept the 
adventure rather secret. I wonder if the husband who will 
sometime claim her will be subtle enough to be jealous of 

A banal experience, when written down. Just a usually 
unsentimental Yankee globe-trotter, who is a poor linguist, 
and a half-naked, woefully ignorant Indian girl who met in 
the jungle and laughed together. And yet it is not banal. 

Once upon a time I was in Venice and bitterly blue. 
Two friends who were very happy took me out in their 
gondola to hear the evening singing on the Lagoon, by 
Santa Maria della Salute. They sat in front of me and were 
so happy they forgot everything but each other which 
helped to intensify my " blues." The gondolas crowd 
about the singing barges so close that the man who passes 
the hat can step from one to another. My thoughts were 
very far away, when a gondola aimed in the opposite direc- 
tion grated alongside of ours. I looked up into a pair of 
very wise brown eyes. I do not know whether there were 
others in that boat, nor how the woman was dressed. I 


saw only those quiet, gentle eyes and something very 
vague and unwrit cable behind them. Very slowly the boats 
slipped apart gradually those glowing eyes disappeared 
in the dusk. What manner of woman she was I have no 
idea. But the something I saw back of her eyes straight- 
ened out and smoothed many things which were awry. 
The moonlight on the stained and faded palaces was sheer 
glory. The music found a perfect harmony. Even the 
succulent happiness of my friends took on a mystic beauty. 
I think that in that one night under the influence of those 
wonderful eyes, I saw Vencie as Whistler and the great 
artists have seen it. 

This Lady of Venice has passed utterly out of my life 
and yet she remains, a more vivid reality than Venice itself. 
It is the same with this Cholo girl in the jungle. I will 
never see her again. And yet she stands out in my memory 
as a definite, indestructible addition to my treasure store 
of real experiences. 

Almost all of us, I think, have some such memories 
horded away. Life would be barren indeed if there was 
nothing to it except the things which can be written down 
explicitly catalogued. 

The charm of the jungle is just such a floating, haunting 
thing. In the reports of the Smithsonian Institution you will 
find its details catalogued but you will not find it. Henri 
Bergeson would say that it makes its appeal to that "in- 
tuitional fringe of consciousness" which cannot find expres- 
sion in words the language of reason. 



THE first Europeans to visit the Isthmus of Panama were 
those who, under the leadership of Rodrigo de Bastides, sailed 
from Cadiz in October, 1500. Vasco Nunez de Balboa was 
among them. The records of this expedition are meagre, 
but we know that they picked up the main land of South 
America near Trinidad and coasted westward, past the Gulf 
of Darien and along the Isthmus as far as Nombre de Dios. 

The "Lettera Rarissima di Cristoforo Colombo," an 
Italian version of a despatch from the great discoverer to 
Ferdinand and Isabella, contains the earliest account of the 
Isthmus in existence. He wrote this letter while ship- 
wrecked on the coast of Jamaica at the end of his fourth and 
last voyage to the Indies. 

It is interesting to note in passing one of the great ironies 
of history. Above all others the English-speaking peoples 
have profited from the discoveries of Columbus. During 
his lifetime they did not know of his existence. The Old 
World took little interest in the finding of a new one. 

The earliest allusion to Columbus in English literature is 
in "The Shyppe of Fooles," a satirical poem which Henry 
Watson translated from the German. It is written in the 
spirit of Juvenal's satire "On the Vanity of Human Wishs." 
One chapter is headed "Of hym that wyll wryte and enquere 
of all regyons," and the following lines refer to Columbus: 

"There was one that knewe that in ye ysles of Spayne was 
enhabitantes. Wherefore he asked of Kynge Ferdynandus 
& wente & founde them, the whiche lyved as beestes." 



This book was printed in London in 1509, three years after 
the death of the admiral more than fifteen years after his 
discoveries were known in Spain and Italy. 

"Until the middle of the sixteenth century," writes John 
Fiske, "no English chronicler mentions either Columbus or 
the Cabots, nor is there anywhere an indication that the 
significance of the discoveries in the western ocean was at all 

As a matter of fact, the westward cruises had not been 
"good business." The Portuguese, sailing around the Cape 
of Good Hope, were finding real treasure houses in the Orient. 
Compared with this trade, Columbus had little to show. At 
best he had found a shorter course, to a very poor section of 
the Indies. It was the failure of any of the western expedi- 
tions to reach the Court of the Great Khan which was the 
motive of Columbus's last voyage. He had made himself in- 
tensely unpopular at court by insisting that the king should 
keep his promise. He had discredited himself during his 
governorship of Santo Domingo. And now, an old man of 
over sixty, he set out again to retrieve his reputation. He 
would bring back from this voyage not some naked savages, 
a few handfuls of gold dust and pearls, but presents from the 
Great Khan. 

On the 9th or llth of May, 1502 (the date is uncertain), he 
sailed from Cadiz with four caravels, the largest of which was 
under fifty tons. He was accompanied by his brother 
Bartholomew, the Adelantado and his younger son, Fer- 
dinando, the child of the mysterious noble woman of Cordova, 
Donna Beatriz Enriquez de Arana. The boy was less than 
fourteen years of age. 

It was a little over a month when they sighted the first 
of the Caribbee Isles, and on the 29th of June they cast 
anchor before the port of Santo Domingo. But the Governor 
Ovando reftised to admit them, so they put to sea again and 


were forced by a hurricane to put into Puerto Hermoso at 
the western end of the island. The admiral remained here 
several days to repair his ships and refresh the men. Another 
storm forced him to seek shelter again and he was weather- 
bound in Jacquemel until the 14th of July. 

On the 30th they reached a new island, called by the 
natives "Guanaja." It was close to the coast of Honduras. 
Here they met a large cayuka which had come from the 
west. It was cut from a single trunk and was eight feet 
wide. Near the centre of this immense canoe was a thatched 
cabin which reminded Columbus of the gondolas of Venice. 
There were twenty-five oarsmen, besides the chieftain and 
his family. The natives had implements of copper, the 
first metal tools seen by the Spaniards in America. Among 
other novelties mentioned in the "lettera rarissima" were two 
new beverages which the Indians offered to the voyagers 
cocoa and a fermented drink made from maize. The visitors 
were also surprised to find that the wives of the chief covered 
their bodies with great care. The account says that they 
were as modest as Moorish women. 

These natives tried to impress the Spaniards with the 
might and magnificence of their country. Such stories 
were what Columbus was hungry for and he probably 
exaggerated them in his report. If he had accepted their 
invitation to visit their homes he would undoubtedly have 
come to Yucatan and the Aztec peoples and his career would 
have ended in a new glory instead of disappointment. But 
he was keen for the greater accomplishment of finding the 
"Strait," the short cut to Cathay. Besides he thought that 
Cuba was part of the mainland and that to have gone toward 
the west was to return to lands he had already visited. 

So he sailed on in his hopeless quest. On the 14th of 
August he struck the mainland at Cape Honduras. Three 
days later the Adelantado landed and took possession of the 


coast in the name of the Spanish Crown. This occasion is 
said to have been the first time that a Christian service was 
held on the continent of America. 

They sailed eastward along the coast of Honduras, tacking 
continually against a head wind and opposing current, never 
making more than five leagues, sometimes less than two. 
The sailors became so exhausted with the constant struggle 
that they confessed to each other and prepared themselves 
for death. 

Even in the days when the Almirante was going back to 
Spain in chains, his condition does not seem to have been as 
pitiable as at this time. He himself was wracked with 
"gout" more probably what we would call rheumatism. 
His crazy little ships were in a sore plight from the continual 
buffeting of the storms. 

In the "lettera rarissima" he writes, "I have seen many 
tempests but none so violent nor of so long duration." " The 
distress of my son," he writes in another paragraph, "grieved 
me to the soul, and the more when I consider his tender age; 
for he was but thirteen years old, and he enduring so much 
toil for so long a time." And again, "My brother was in 
the ship that was in the worst condition and the most exposed 
to danger; and my grief on his account was the greater that 
I had brought him with me against his will." 

For a full month after reaching Cape Honduras they fought 
their way against the gale. On the 14th of September they 
came to a sharp turn in the coast. Able now to head due 
south, with favorable wind and current, they were so relieved 
that they named the place "Cape Gracios d Dios." 

On the 25th they came to a beautiful island off the mouth 
of a river which they named "La Huesta," The Garden. 
The natives were friendly and Columbus wishing to give the 
impression of magnanimity refused to accept their presents 
although he gave them many trinkets. This breach of 


barbarian hospitality insulted the Indians and they returned 
all his gifts. But peace was soon restored and two young 
girls were sent out to the ships as hostages. There is some 
obscurity in the narrative as to just what happened to these 
girls while on board. But Columbus seems to have con- 
sidered them a bad lot. 

On the following day the Adelantado went ashore. He 
began to dictate to his clerk the information he could gather 
about the coast. But at the sight of pen and paper the 
Indians took fright, thinking it was magic. They would not 
return until their medicine-men had made some counter- 
magic and had burned a lot of protective incense. Now, 
in reverence for the black art, the Europeans of that day 
were not a bit behind the naked inhabitants of America. 

Marco Polo in describing a vague country which he calls 
Soccotera, had written: "The inhabitants deal more in 
sorcery and witchcraft than any other people, although for- 
bidden by their archbishop, who excommunicates and 
anathematizes them for this sin. ... If any vessel 
belonging to a pirate should injure one of theirs, they do not 
fail to lay him under a spell, so that he cannot proceed on 
his cruise until he has made satisfaction for the damage. 
. . . They can in like manner cause the sea to become calm, 
and at their will can raise tempests, occasion shipwrecks and 
produce many other extraordinary effects that need not be 

Certainly some of Columbus's crew had read this narrative. 
And of course this made the cause of all their mishaps very 
clear. They were in the neighborhood of Soccotera. No 
matter what form the hospitality of the rough sailors took 
toward the two hostages, the young ladies were undoubtedly 
lucky to escape from the ships without having been burned as 

On the 5th of October, the squadron sailed from La 


Huestra and its magic, along the shore of Costa Rica, to 
Almirante Bay and Chiriqui Lagoon, the limit of the present 
Republic of Panama. 

Here the Spaniards found the natives wearing ornaments 
of pure gold and also masonry walls. The first they had seen 
which even distantly resembled civilized architecture. 

In one place they secured seventeen plates of gold, worth 
one hundred and fifty ducats, for three hawks' bells. At 
another village they got nineteen gold ornaments. And 
always the natives told them of richer countries down the 
coast. All these vague stories they must have been much 
distorted by the lack of knowledge of the native language 
confirmed Columbus in the delusion that he was nearing 
Cathay. His report is full of a country which the natives 
called "Ciguare," where gold was as common as mud, where 
even the beggar women wore strings of priceless pearls, and 
where there were great ships like his own and a widespread 
commerce. "I should be content," he wrote, "if a tithe of 
this which I hear is true. . . . They also say that the sea 
surrounds Ciguare and that ten days journey from thence is 
the river Ganges." They told him that by proceeding on 
his course he would soon come to " a narrow place between 
two seas." Of course they were speaking of the Isthmus. 
But Columbus, with a fixed idea, interpreted this to mean the 
long sought "straits of Malacca." His writings show that 
he thought he was coasting down one side of a long penin- 
sular, like his native Italy, and that he would soon round 
the end of it and sail into the fabulous water of the Indies. 

Despite the desire of his crew to stop and explore this 
country so rich in gold, Columbus persistently held his course 
along the coast. 

Washington Irving, whose extravagant admiration for 
Columbus makes him grasp every opportunity to eulogize 
him, makes this comment : 


" Nothing could evince more clearly his generous ambition, 
than hurrying in this brief manner along a coast where wealth 
was to be gathered at every step, for the purpose of seeking a 
strait which, however it might produce vast benefit for man- 
kind, could yield little else to himself than the glory of the 

But the insistence with which the great navigator de- 
manded the recognition of his titles, the payment of all his 
perquisites in striking contrast to the modesty of such men 
as di Gama forces one to doubt if Columbus was so dis- 
interested as Irving would have us believe. His arrogance 
and cruelty had made him impossible as a governor of Santo 
Domingo, his pride and greed had destroyed his original 
popularity at the Spanish court. The discovery of the 
straits the quick route to the Spice Islands and Cathay 
meant not only personal rehabilitation, reinvestment in his 
high dignities, but also restoration of his right to lay tribute 
on the lands he had discovered. And Columbus, more than 
the stay-at-home official of Spain, foresaw what a gigantic 
income this would grow to be. He had come on this cruise 
to load his caravels not with gold with vindication. He 
needed the Straits. 

On November 2d, he came to the magnificent harbor which 
he named Puerto Bello. They were stormbound here for a 
week, then continued eastward, past Nombre de Dios. 
Rough weather forced them again to seek shelter in a harbor, 
which they called Puerto de Bastimentos. 

The ships were in a pitiful state. Besides the strain from 
the continued storms, they had been eaten by ship worm, the 
pest of tropical waters, until they leaked like sieves. The 
" teredo" is a jelly-like animal, about the size of a man's 
finger. It is all soft except its formidable mandibles with 
which it penetrates the hardest wood as easily as cheese. 
They swarm in these waters and no wooden vessel unpro- 


tected by copper can resist them. The Spaniards described 
them as " worms," but they are a subdivision of the mol- 

Having somewhat repaired his ships, the Admiral again 
set sail, again to be driven to shelter by a storm. This 
harbor was so small they called it El Retrete, or The Closet. 
The natives at first were friendly. Irving says they "received 
them into their dwellings with their accustomed hospitality, 
but the rough adventurers, instigated by avarice and lust, 
soon committed excesses which aroused their generous hosts 
to revenge." The ships were anchored so close to shore that 
Columbus could not keep his men on board. There were a 
number of brawls and at last it was necessary to disperse the 
natives with the ship's cannon. 

Columbus had now overlapped the voyage of Bastides. 
Spaniards had followed the coast westward from Trinidad 
and southeastward from Cape Honduras past Nombre de 
Dios. If Columbus knew the details of the earlier voyage he 
knew that his dream of the Strait had been an illusion. But 
there is nothing in his writings to show that he did know it. 

However his caravels were scarcely seaworthy, his sailors 
were mutinous, and he was sick. They were all ships and 
men worn to the breaking point by the long and bitter 
struggle with adverse winds. 

On the 5th of December, Columbus sailed out of Puerto 
El Retrete and turned back. If he could not win the fame 
he had sought the gold was not to be despised. He had 
hardly set out on the return voyage when the seasons changed 
and the wind completely shifted. For three months they had 
longed for such a wind. Now, as though truly bewitched, it 
turned just as they did. Off Puerto Bello they ran into the 
worst hurricane they had yet encountered. To add to the 
terror of the phosphorescent waters, the blinding lightning, 
they were nearly swamped by a waterspout. The sailors 


almost gave up hope. As a last chance they recited portions 
of the Gospel of St. John. It proved a more powerful charm 
than that of the girl hostages from La Huesta, and the water- 
spout turned aside and left them unharmed. 

All during Christmas week they were buffeted by this 
storm. They were further disspirited by a school of sharks 
which persistently followed them. So troublesome and 
changeable were the winds and tides that Columbus named 
the isthmus, "La Costa de los Contrastes." 

But on Epiphany Sunday they came to a sheltered harbor 
which they called Santa Maria de Belen St. Mary of 

While the sailors were busy repairing the ships the Adelan- 
tado with a handful of soldiers began the quest for gold. On 
the 9th of January they visited the Cacique whom they called 
Quiban. They traded some European trumpery for some 
valuable gold ornaments and persuaded him to visit the ships. 
There they courteously traded a handful of hawks' bells for 
his remaining ornaments. 

On the 24th of January a typical Panamanian freshet 
nearly ended the expedition. The Rio Belen rose so rapidly 
that it tore the ships from their anchors, drove them against 
each other and carried away the foremast of the flagship. 
In the hope of changing his luck, Columbus named the 
highest mountain he could see after his own saint San 
Christoval. He says in his letter that the peak rose far above 
the clouds. The clouds must have hung very low in those 

Early in February the Adelantado with sixty-five men went 
up the coast to the Rio Veraguas, the seat of the Cacique 
Quiban, who gave him some guides to the gold fields. They 
went six leagues into the interior and found rich placer gold. 
Columbus wrote, on the basis of their report, that he had 
seen more signs of gold here in a few days, than in the four 


years he had spent in Santo Domingo. He was convinced 
that he had reached the Aurea Chersoneus of the Ancients. 

" Josephus thinks," he wrote, "that this gold of the Chron- 
icles and the Book of Kings was found in the Aurea. If it 
were so, I contend that these mines of the Aurea are identical 
with those of Veragua. David in his will left 3,000 quintals 
of Indian gold to Solomon, to assist in building the temple, 
and according to Josephus it came from these lands." 

He decided therefore to leave the Adelantado with eighty 
men to found a colony; he would return to Spain for rein- 
forcements. Santo Domingo which he had discovered and 
settled had been given to his enemies. The king refused to 
recognize his title to the pearl coast. Cheated of his other 
possession, he would begin again and create a new vice- 

Work was begun at once. A few thatch cottages were 
built on a little eminence near the mouth of the Rio Belen. 
One of the four caravels, stocked with provisions, was to 
be left to the colonists. Bananas, cocoanuts, plantains and 
other fruit grew in abundance. The river and sea were full 
of fish. There appeared to be no danger of famine. The 
Indians were friendly. 

When these arrangements had been completed, a new 
obstacle arose. The dry season had set in and the river had 
fallen to such an extent that he could not get the three 
caravels out across the bar at the mouth of the river. He was 
forced to wait until a rain would cause a new freshet. 

Meanwhile Diego Mendez, one of the most daring and 
venturesome of these adventurers, began to suspect that 
Quiban, the Indian chief, was plotting their destruction. 
Whether or not there was any foundation for this suspicion 
it is now impossible to determine. Mendez seems to have 
persuaded the Adelantado without much trouble; it was 
harder to convince Columbus of such treachery. But at last 


it was decided to strike before the Indians had matured their 
plot, and on the 30th of March, Bartholomew Columbus took 
the warpath with seventy-five men. They approached 
Quiban village without being discovered. The main body 
remained hidden in the woods, with instructions to rush out 
as soon as they heard an arquebuse. They were to try to 
capture as many prisoners as possible. 

The Adelantado, having stationed his men thus, entered 
the village with Mendez and four others. Quiban came out 
of his house and greeted them courteously. After a mo- 
ment's conversation the Adelantado gave the signal, Mendez 
fired his arquebuse and they all fell on the Cacique. While 
they were tying him up the main force hurried up and cap- 
tured about fifty people, old and young, women and children 
and half a dozen of the elders of the tribe. The Indians were 
completely taken by surprise and were overpowered without 

The prisoners were bundled into the boats to be taken to 
the ships as hostages and eventually sold as slaves. Quiban 
was especially entrusted to the care of one Juan Sanchez, 
who swore that if the Cacique escaped they might pluck out 
his beard, hair by hair. However, the Cacique did escape. 
He worked some of his bonds loose and dove overboard, 
preferring the society of the sharks to that of the Spaniards. 
Whether or not Sanchez lost his beard is not recorded. The 
Adelantado's loot was considerably over $1,000 worth of 

The Spaniards hoped that this "lesson" would strike 
terror into the hearts of the natives. They believed that 
Quiban was dead, but even if, tied hand and foot, he had 
managed to swim safe to shore, they thought that knowing 
that all his family were held as hostages would discourage 
any plan of revenge. 

A fortunate freshet lifted the three caravels over the bar 


and Columbus, taking leave of his brother and the little 
colony, started on the long voyage home. But adverse winds, 
soon growing to a gale, forced him to anchor just outside the 
river's mouth. On the 6th of April he sent in a small boat, 
under the command of Diego Tristan, to get some fresh water. 
Tristan never returned. 

Quiban had not drowned. And once on shore he set about 
for revenge in earnest. He gathered all his tribesmen and 
allies, and within a few days after Columbus had left the 
harbor, made an attack on the colony. The Indians crept 
up under cover of the jungle which grew close to the settle- 
ment. They rushed out, catching the colonists completely off 
their guard. The Adelantado had his arms at hand and with 
seven or eight men held the savages at bay until the rest of his 
men could rally. With the aid of their bloodhounds, of which 
the Indians were even more afraid than of firearms, they 
repulsed this first attack. One Spaniard and a number of 
Indians were killed. 

Tristan arrived in his boat during the mele*e, but seems to 
have taken no part in it. As soon as the Indians disappeared 
in the woods, he proceeded up stream, against the orders 
of the Adelantado, to fill his water casks. The river was 
deep and narrow, overhung with trees. About a league above 
the village, war whoops rang out from both shores, the woods 
seemed to rain javelins. Canoes full of naked Indians darted 
out at them from all sides. One man, Juan de Noya, a 
cooper from Seville, dove for it and, being able to swim a 
long distance under water, escaped to tell the tale. 

The colony was completely disorganized. This sort of 
warfare, eighty of them against myriads, was not the sort of 
gold hunting they had bargained for. Above all they feared 
that the Almirante would sail for Spain and leave them to 
their fate. Defying the Adelantado they mutinously tried 
to put to sea in their caravel. But the water had fallen 


again and they could not get it across the bar. They tried 
the small boats, but a gale was blowing in from the sea and 
piling up an impassable surf on the bar. 

The Indians, exulting over their massacre of Tristan's crew, 
were blowing their conch shells in the forest preparing for a 
new attack. The bodies of Tristan and his men came float- 
ing down the river. About them circled and screamed and 
fought a great cloud of vultures. 

The fear which had at first driven them to mutiny now 
drove the colonists back to discipline. The Adelantado was 
about the only one with a cool head on his shoulders. Be- 
lieving it impossible to hold the scattered houses of the 
village, he changed his base to an open place on the beach. 
There they erected a small fort of casks and boxes. They 
took two falconets from the caravel. These little cannon 
had a very wholesome effect on the Indians. And in this 
new position the Spaniards had nothing to fear as long as 
their ammunition and provisions held out. 

Affairs had not been going any better aboard the caravels 
in the offing. The hostages who had been captured in the 
raid on Quiban's village had managed to break out of the 
hold of the flagship and most of them jumped overboard 
and had swam ashore. The few who were recaptured had 
promptly strangled themselves. This not only knocked a 
big hole in the expected profit of these slave dealers, but 
Columbus rightly felt that the arrival of the hostages on 
shore would make the Indians more determined on war than 
ever. He became immensely worried as day after day 
Tristan failed to return. He had only one small boat left 
in the fleet and he did not dare to risk losing it in the pounding 
surf on the bar. 

At last a pilot named Pedro Ledesma, inspired by example 
of the escaping Indians, volunteered to swim the surf. 
"Surely," he said, "if they dare to venture so much to pro- 


cure their individual liberties, I ought to brave at least a part 
of this danger to save the lives of so many comrades." 

The small boat took him as near the surf as it dared. 
Ledesma stripped and went overboard into the turmoil of 
the surf, and won safe to shore. He found the little garrison 
in sore straits and they were overjoyed to find that the 
caravels had not yet sailed. Ledesma risked his life again 
in the surf to take the sad news back to the Almirante. 

It was indeed disspiriting news for Columbus. He could 
spare no men to reenforce the garrison. There was no 
alternative to giving up the colony. His own position was 
by no means devoid of danger. Any moment his crazy little 
ships might fall apart, so serious had been the attack of the 
teredo. He was riding at anchor in a gale off a lee shore. 
Any moment his frayed cables might part. His own sickness 
wore heavily upon him. His mind seems to have weakened 
under the strain. At least it was at this period that he had 
the vision he so solemnly recounts in the "Lettera rarissima." 

" Wearied and sighing," he wrote, "I fell into a slumber, 
when I heard a piteous voice saying to me. 'Oh fool and 
slow to believe and serve thy God, who is the God of all! 
What did he more for Moses, or for his servant David, than 
he has done for thee? . . . When he saw thee of fitting 
age he made thy name to resound marvellously throughout 
the earth. ... Of the gates of the ocean sea, shut up 
with such mighty chains, he delivered to thee the keys; the 
Indies, those wealthy regions of the world, he gave thee 
for thine own, and empowered thee to dispose of them to 
others, according to thy pleasure. What did he more for 
the great people of Israel when he led them forth from 
Egypt? . . . He has many and vast inheritances yet in 
reserve. Fear not to seek them. Thine age shall be no 
impediment for any great undertaking. Abraham was above 
a hundred years when he begot Isaac. And was Sarah 


youthful? . . . Who has afflicted thee so much and so 
many times? God or the world? The privileges and 
promises which God hath made thee, he hath never broken; 
neither hath he said, after having received thy services, that 
his meaning was different and to be understood in another 
sense. He performs to the very letter.' ' 

"I heard all this," Columbus adds, "as one almost dead, 
and had no power to reply to words so true." 

Irving writes in regard to this vision: "He is not to be 
measured by the same standards with ordinary men. . . . 
The artless manner in which, in his letter to his sovereigns, 
he mingles up the rhapsodies and dreams of his imagination 
with simple facts and sound practical observations, pouring 
them forth with a kind of scriptural solemnity and poetry of 
language, is one of the most striking illustrations of a char- 
acter richly compounded of extraordinary and apparently 
contradictory elements." 

Justin Winsor, in his biography of Columbus, is not so kind. 
He gives a rather ironical rendering of this portion of the 
Admiral's letter and dismisses it summarily as either an 
elaborate hoax intended to remind his sovereigns of their 
broken promises and to frighten them into restoring his 
honors or a plain case of paranoiac meglomania. It is prob- 
able that King Ferdinand put the first of these interpreta- 
tions on it. 

Von Humboldt with probably a juster insight speaks of 
this vision as showing the wreck of a proud mind broken 
down by the weight of dead hopes. 

Fair weather followed this vision. The Adelantado was 
able to bring off all his men and most of his provisions in 
small boats. They had to abandon the caravel. The 
Admiral coasted eastward to the Gulf of San Bias, hoping to 
get free of the currents. Here another ship went to pieces 
and with the remnant of his men crowded on two flimsy 


boats he steered north toward Santo Domingo and out of the 
story of the Isthmus. 

Desperate as had been his misfortunes along the coast of 
Panama he had to face worse ones. Unable to reach Santo 
Domingo, he had to run his sinking ships ashore on Jamaica. 
There were months of waiting for rescue, and at last a neg- 
lected death in Valladolid, Spain, on the 20th of May, 1506. 

The historians of to-day are engaged in a bitter contro- 
versy over the character of Columbus. Irving set the fashion 
among modern writers of indiscriminate praise. Roselly de 
Lorgues and a few ecstatic French writers are trying to 
persuade the Roman Church to canonize him. Their praise 
is even more fulsome than Irving's statement that "the 
finger of the historian will find it difficult to point to a single 
blemish in his moral character." They have gone to the 
length of developing an elaborate argument, which lacks 
nothing but substantiating facts, to prove that Columbus 
married the mother of his son Fernando. 

Henry Harrisse has given us much light on the subject by 
his tireless collecting of original documents. The facts are 
not at all as pleasing as the " canonizers" would desire. Dr. 
Shea, an eminent Catholic historian, writes, "He seems to 
have succeeded in attracting but few men to him, who ad- 
hered loyally to his cause. Those under him were con- 
stantly rebellious and mutinous; those over him found him 
impracticable. To array all these as enemies, inspired by a 
satanic hostility to a great servant of God, is to ask too 
much for our belief." 

Justin Winsor, one of the foremost of our historians, has 
applied the modern critical method, the studying of original 
documents, to Columbus. He brings forward strong evi- 
dence of many unlovely characteristics. Winsor accuses him 
of inordinate greed, shows that he had a penchant for slave 
stealing that even Queen Isabella could not control, convicts 


him of having at one time tried to force his crew to swear 
to false statements about the land they had discovered. 
Winsor certainly brings in overwhelming evidence of the 
Admiral's appalling conceit. In his treatise on the prophets 
Columbus wrote, " Human reason, mathematics and maps 
have served me in no wise. What I have accomplished is 
simply the fulfillment of the prophecy of David." This 
overweaning vanity, this pretence of being the special envoy 
from on High is, according to Winsor, the reason he was un- 
able to keep any friends. 

Winsor's long attack on the character of Columbus ends 
with this paragraph : 

" We have seen a pitiful man meet a pitiful death. Hardly 
a name in profane history is more august than his. Hardly 
another character in the world's record has made so little 
of its opportunities. His discovery was a blunder, his 
blunder a new world; the New World is his monument! Its 
discoverer might have been its father; he proved its despoiler. 
He might have given its young days such a benignity as the 
world likes to associate with a maker; he left it a legacy of 
devastation and crime. He might have been an unselfish 
promoter of geographical science; he proved a rabid seeker 
for gold and a vice-royalty. He might have won converts to 
the cause of Christ by the kindness of his spirit; he gained 
the execrations of the good angels. He might, like Las 
Casas, have rebuked the fiendishness of his contemporaries; 
he set them an example of perverted belief. The triumph of 
Barcelona led down to the ignominy of Valladolid, with every 
step in the degradation palpable and resultant." 

Fortunately it is no more necessary to accept without 
qualification this dark picture which Mr. Winsor draws than 
to believe that the great voyager was a model of all the do- 
mestic and ecclesiastical virtues as Irving and the "canon- 
izers" would have us. 


Columbus lived in an age when the vices, Mr. Winsor so 
energetically denounces, were as common as freckles. And 
the virtues, for the absence of which he denounces Columbus, 
were just as rare as they are to-day. The cruelties charged 
against Columbus were no worse than those of their most 
Catholic majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, against the Moors. 
He drove a sharp bargain with the throne and made himself 
very unpleasant when deprived of what he thought was due 
him. His famous lawsuits were just the kind we have to-day : 
efforts to get what his friends called justice and his enemies 
called graft. If he had been a more courteous loser he would 
probably have lost less. The worst thing proved against him 
is his lack of friends. There can, I think, be little doubt that 
his character was unpleasant. But we of this latter day, 
who do not have to serve in one of his caravel, nor listen to 
the flow of his petulant temper, are free to give him in ad- 
miration what he so sadly lacked in affection. 

The wisest word I have found in this controversy is in 
the preface of John Fiske's "The Discovery of America." 

"No one can deny," he writes, "that Las Casas was a 
keen judge of men, or that his standard of right and wrong 
was quite as lofty as anyone has reached in our own time. 
He had a much more intimate knowledge of Columbus than 
any modern historian can hope to acquire, and he always 
speaks of him with warm admiration and respect. But how 
could Las Casas ever have respected the feeble, mean- 
spirited driveller whose portrait Mr. Winsor asks us to accept 
as that of the discoverer of America?" 



THE reports which Columbus brought home from his last 
voyage, his stories of rich goldfields, won for the Isthmus 
the glittering name of Castilla del Oro. Expeditions to 
Nueva Andalucfa, as the north coast of South America was 
called, came home with even richer cargoes. Cristoval 
Guerra and Pedro Alonzo Nino returned in 1500, "so laden 
with pearls," according to an old chronicler, "that they 
were in a maner with every mariner as common as chaff e." 

Yet many years passed before any serious effort was 
made to colonize the Mainland. The Spanish king had his 
hands more than full with domestic wars. Not until 1508 
did the matter force itself on the attention of the Council 
of the Indies. 

Herrera, the official historian of the Court, writes (trans- 
lation of Capt. John Stevens, 1725): "The king was very 
intent upon having Colonies settled there, and none was so 
ready to perform it as Alonso de Ojeda, but he not being 
rich, could not contract with the King, unless supported by 
some other. John de la Cosa offer'd to be assisting with his 
Estate, and accordingly went to Court, relying on the Favour 
of John Rodriquez de Fonseca, Bishop of Palencia, who had 
Management of the Affairs of the Indies and was a Friend 
to Alonso de Ojeda." 

It would have been difficult for His Catholic Majesty to 
put finger on a man more fitted for New World adventure 
than this same Alonso de Ojeda. He had been born in 
Cuenca, of the inevitably poor but honest parents. He had 





served as a page, then as an esquire in the retinue of the 
Duke of Medina Celi. Under the tutelage of this flower of 
Spanish nobility he had been through the bitterest cam- 
paigns of the Moorish wars. He was short and stocky, but 
graceful; he excelled in the arts of chivalric wars. He was 
said not to be good to look at, but men adored him. When 
twenty-one he had sailed with Columbus on his second voy- 
age. He had been a member of a later expedition along the 
coast of Nueva Andalucfa. and had lived some years in the 

Besides his own experience, and as a counterbalance to 
his always empty purse, he had a wealth of friends. It was 
his good fortune, as Herrera says, to have for friend the great 
Bishop of Palencia, who was supreme in the Council of the 

But undoubtedly his greatest asset was the loyalty of the 
old pilot Juan de la Cosa. Peter Martyr, one of the most 
trustworthy of the contemporaneous chroniclers of the Dis- 
covery, says that the navigators of the day valued above all 
other maps those made by de la Cosa "to whom these 
tracks were as well known as the chambers of his own 
house." He had sailed more miles in the Caribbean Sea 
than even the great Almirante. He had a sagacious head 
and the quiet sort of bravery which was badly needed to 
balance the dashing impetuosity of Ojeda. And he loved 
the younger man with a fidelity such as is seldom recounted 
in the stories of those days. If the king had been making 
a selection solely on merit, he could not have done better 
than to choose this team. 

But there was another applicant for the honor of colonizing 
the Mainland Don Diego de Nicuesa. He had the ad- 
vantage over Ojeda of being not only much richer but also 
the more polished. He held the high courtly office of Royal 
Carver. He wore some of the smartest clothes ever seen in 


Madrid. But in spite of his dandified manners and his 
popularity with the ladies-in-waiting, he was a gentleman of 
unquestioned integrity and valor. But he had had no spe- 
cial schooling for the bitter hard work in hand. There is 
not much of good which can be said of Nicuesa. Above all, 
he was a stubborn fool, but he was not white-livered or he 
would never have sought to lay aside the Royal Carving 
Knife for the sword of the conqueror. 

For a long time Merit and Favoritism balanced each other 
in the mind of the king. Being able to make no choice, he 
appointed them both. Nicuesa was to govern the Castilla 
del Oro from Cape Gracios a Dios to the border of Nueva 
Andalucia. Ojeda was given Nueva Andalucfa from Cape 
de la Vela to the domains of Nicuesa. The dividing line 
between their jurisdictions the wise king left for them to 
fight out. 

In the fall of 1509, the two governors met in Santo Dom- 
ingo and began the quarrel. The king had further compli- 
cated matters for them, by giving them as a joint source of 
provisions the Island of Jamaica. This embroiled them at 
once with Diego Columbus, the son of the Admiral, who was 
governor of Santo Domingo and laid claim to all lands dis- 
covered by his father. There could be no question that 
Jamaica was legally his. To have it given away to others 
made him so hostile to the interlopers that instead of help- 
ing them with ships and men, as the king had ordered, he 
did all he could to embarrass them. Of course the obvious 
thing was to fan the fire of jealousy between the two gov- 

Alonso de Ojeda soon lost his head and challenged his 
rival to a duel. However, Juan de la Cosa was able to avert 
bloodshed and under his mediation they agreed to accept 
the Darien River, now called the Atrato, as the boundary 
between their provinces. 


But the peace between them was precarious. Nicuesa, 
having the more ready money, was able to outbid his rival 
for ships and equipment. Two things counterbalanced this 
advantage. First of all Ojeda's experience in those parts, 
his reputation and personal charm attracted to his standard 
the pick of the volunteers. Among them were two who 
were later to paint their names in great letters of blood and 
fire on the chronicle of fame, Hernado Cortes and Francisco 
Pizarro. At the last moment he won a new ally in the per- 
son of the Bachelor of Law, Martin Fernandez de Enciso. 
This clever attorney had amassed a fortune of over ten thou- 
sand dollars in a few years of colonial practice. But he had 
not realized the fact that it is easier to get money from 
adventurers than by adventures. In an evil day he began 
to listen to the alluring tales of Ojeda. Like so many an- 
other he fell under the man's charm. Under the promise of 
being made " Alcalde Mayor " chief justice of the to-be- 
conquered vice-royalty of Nueva Andalucia, he turned his 
bankbook over to Ojeda. 

On the 12th of November, 1509, Ojeda sailed from Santo 
Domingo, with two ships, two brigantines, three hundred 
men and twelve brood-mares. At the last moment Hernando 
Cortes was disabled by a wounded knee and was unable to 
accompany them. A few days later Nicuesa set out with 
two large ships, two brigantines, a caravel, seven hundred 
men and six horses. His was by far the more brilliant 
company, but they were mostly fresh from Spain, less 
hardened for the work before them than his rival's com- 

It was a remarkable group of men, these discoverers and 
conquistadores. They were a strong breed, whom Irving 
calls the " chivalry of the sea." The old feudal manner of 
life was breaking down in Europe the expulsion of the 
Moors from Spain had been the last great crusade. These 


men who came over to the New World were the remnant of 
the feudal nobility. We are wont to think of them as pio- 
neers progressives. They were apostles of an old and dying 
regime. To a romancer like Washington Irving the word 
" chivalry" conjured up a gorgeous tapestry, woven of brave 
deeds, and many heroic virtues. To the modern student of 
history the word means an epoch when famine and plague 
stalked unchecked over Europe, when brute passion, un- 
refined by any shade of culture, ruled those in high places, 
when shameless cruelty was the daily commonplace. It was 
an age of Inquisitions and of trial by tortures. When the 
finest ladies of Madrid enjoyed the "divertissement" of an 
auto de fe. An era, the passing of which no sane man could 
regret. These empire-founders, compared to the great men 
of the dawning Renaissance, were black reactionaries. Their 
day had passed at home; to the west they brought all the old 
barbaric morality of medievalism, all the religious intoler- 
ance of the Dark Ages. The one man who stands out in the 
early history of America as touched with the new Humanism 
which was illuminating Europe Las Casas was stoned by 
the conquistadores. 

These men who sailed from Santo Domingo four centuries 
ago were of a type hard to sympathize with to-day. Bloody 
from their infernal massacres they gave fanatical thanks to 
the Holy Virgin. With stolen gold, the prize of rapine and 
slaughter, they adorned the Crucifix. From silver, dug by 
the defenceless women and children whom they scourged 
down into their deadly mines, they hammered out magnifi- 
cent vessels for the service of the Mass. They wore some 
fair lady's gage on their helmets, and committed the vilest 
outrages on women. They were insanely courageous, and 
afraid of the dark. They were never daunted by real diffi- 
culties, they trembled before the croaking of a fortune-teller. 
They were more often defeated by their own petty jealousies, 


or the treachery of trusted comrades, than by the innumer- 
able enemy. 

All these contradictory elements seem to have focused in 
Alonso de Ojeda. The Bishop of Palencia had given him a 
miraculous portrait of the Virgin. He carried it in the belief 
that it made him invulnerable. It is only the united voices 
of many witnesses which make it possible to believe that he 
actually lived through the innumerable adventures which 
make up his biography. But we have here to do only with 
that chapter of his life which affected the Isthmus. 

In due time his little fleet touched the mainland his as 
yet unconquered vice-royalty near the present city of 
Carthagena, in Colombia. He went ashore with part of 
his force and at once set about establishing his authority. 
There was the ordinary formality of waving the Spanish 
flag, erecting a cross and so forth. The few white men 
who had previously visited this coast had come to trade. 
The Indians crowded down on the shore with hospitable 
intention. Having satisfied his own idea of taking posses- 
sion, Ojeda turned his attention to the natives. He ordered 
some of his friars, who had come to look after the spiritual 
welfare of the new domains, to read aloud the following 
proclamation. This curious treatise had been drawn up by 
learned divines at home and with slight alterations was 
employed by the other conquistadores under similar circum- 
stances : 

"I, Alonso de Ojeda, servant of the high and mighty 
kings of Castile and Leon, civilizers of barbarous nations, 
their messenger and captain, notify and make known to 
you, in the best way I can, that God our Lord, one and 
eternal, created the heavens and earth, and one man and 
one woman, from whom you, and we, and all the people of 
the earth, were and are descendants, procreated, and all 
those who shall come after us; but the vast number of gen- 


erations which have proceeded from them in the course of 
more than five thousand years that have elapsed since the 
creation of the world, made it necessary that some of the 
human race should disperse in one direction, and some in 
another, and that they should divide themselves into many 
kingdoms and provinces, as they could not sustain and 
preserve themselves in one alone. All these people were 
given in charge, by God our Lord, to one person, named 
Saint Peter, who was thus made lord and superior of all the 
people of the earth, and head of the whole human lineage; 
whom all should obey, wherever they might live, and what- 
ever might be their law, sect, or belief; he gave him also the 
whole world for his service and jurisdiction; and though he 
desired that he should establish his chair in Rome, yet he per- 
mitted that he might establish his chair in any other part of 
the world, and judge and govern all the nations, Christians, 
Moors, Jews, Gentiles, and whatever other sect or belief 
might be. This person was denominated Pope, that is to 
say, Admirable, Supreme, Father and Guardian, because he 
is father and governor of all mankind. This holy father was 
obeyed and honored as lord, king, and superior of the uni- 
verse by those who lived in his time, and, in like manner, 
have been obeyed and honored all those who have been 
elected to the pontificate; and thus it has continued unto 
the present day, and will continue until the end of the world. 
"One of these pontiffs, of whom I have spoken, as lord 
of the world, made a donation of these islands and conti- 
nents of the ocean sea, and all that they contain, to the 
Catholic kings of Castile, who, at that time, were Ferdinand 
and Isabella, of glorious memory, and to their successors, 
our sovereigns, according to the tenor of certain papers, 
drawn up for the purpose (which you may see if you desire). 
Thus his majesty is king and sovereign of these islands and 
continents by virtue of the said donation, and, as king and 


sovereign, certain islands, and almost all, to whom this has 
been notified, have received his majesty, and have obeyed 
and served, and do actually serve him. And, moreover, like 
good subjects, and with good will, and without any resistance 
or delay, the moment they were informed of the foregoing, 
they obeyed all the religious men sent among them to preach 
and teach our holy faith; and these of their free and cheer- 
ful will, without any condition or reward, became Chris- 
tians, and continue so to be. And his majesty received 
them kindly and benignantly, and ordered that they should 
be treated like his other subjects and vassals. You also 
are required and obliged to do the same. Therefore, in the 
best manner I can, I pray and entreat you, that you consider 
well what I have said, and that you take whatever time is 
reasonable to understand and deliberate upon it, and that 
you recognize the church for sovereign and superior of the 
universal world, and the supreme pontiff, called Pope, in 
her name, and his majesty, in his place, as superior and 
sovereign king of the islands and terra firma by virtue of 
said donation; and that you consent that these religious 
fathers declare and preach to you the foregoing: and if 
you shall so do, you will do well, and will do that to which 
your are bounden and obliged; and his majesty, and I, in 
his name, will receive you with all due love and charity; 
and will leave you your wives and children free from servi- 
tude, that you may freely do with them and with yourselves 
whatever you please and think proper, as have done the 
inhabitants of the other islands. And, besides this, his 
majesty will give you many privileges and exemptions, and 
grant you many favors. If you do not do this, or wickedly 
and intentionally delay to do so, I certify to you that, by 
the aid of God, I will forcibly invade and make war upon 
you in all parts and modes that I can, and will subdue you 
to the yoke and obedience of the church and of his majesty; 


and I will take your wives and children and make slaves of 
them, and sell them as such, and dispose of them as his 
majesty may command; and I will take your effects, and 
will do you all the harm and injury in my power, as vassals 
who will not obey or receive their sovereign and who resist 
and oppose him. And I protest that the deaths and disas- 
ters, which may in this manner be occasioned, will be the 
fault of yourselves, and not of his majesty, nor of me, nor 
of the cavaliers who accompany me. And of what I tell 
you and require of you, I call upon the notary here present 
to give me his signed testimonial." 

How much the natives understood of these ponderously 
intoned Spanish sentences, we do not know. But the gist of 
it seems to have been made plain to them, for the accounts 
say that they replied with great dignity that they were satis- 
fied with their own chiefs and were entirely ready to protect 
their wives and children. 

The Spaniards made short work of them on the open 
beach but they had not yet learned the danger of follow- 
ing the natives into the jungle. Nor had they learned the 
horror of poisoned arrow. Juan de la Cosa urged Ojeda 
to be content with his victory and to postpone further 
fighting until they had found a suitable place for their 
settlement and had established themselves. But it was 
not Ojeda's nature to be cautious. He gave the order for 
pursuit. They came in an hour or so to a large Indian 
village. In a moment they had scattered in quest of booty. 
And then the natives fell upon them. They were off their 
guard and most of them fell during the first surprise. Juan 
de la Cosa rallied a few of them and made a desperate re- 
sistance. Only one of this group escaped. Ojeda also with 
his marvellous luck got away into the jungle. But sepa- 
rated from his men he went astray. Without food and in 
constant danger of discovery he struggled through the dense 


underbrush. With his last strength he reached the seaside. 
And there his men found him in an almost dying condition. 
The sailors left on shipboard had become desperate at the 
long absence of the landing party. Just when things were 
at their darkest some sails came up over the horizon it 
was the fleet of Nicuesa. 

The two governors had parted in anger, and Ojeda feared 
that his rival would take advantage of his distress. But 
Nicuesa it is the one really noble incident related about 
him sent word that "A Spanish hidalgo does not harbor 
malice against a prostrate foe." He turned aside from his 
own errand to land a party and help Ojeda wreak a bloody 
vengeance for the death of Juan de la Cosa. They surprised 
the Indians, who were feasting in their village, in celebration 
of their victory, and massacred them to the last child. The 
blood lust of the Spaniards was whetted by the sight of the 
corpse of de la Cosa, horribly bloated and discolored as a result 
of the poisoned arrows. Incidentally the share of Nicuesa's 
men in the booty was over thirty-five thousand dollars. 

Ojeda sailed on to the Gulf of Darien, the western boun- 
dary of his province, and disembarked on the eastern shore. 
In memory of Juan de la Cosa and as a protective charm 
he named the place San Sebastien, after the saint who died 
from arrow wounds. It was the first European settlement 
on the American continent. He despatched his fastest 
ship back to Santo Domingo, with booty already won and 
glowing letters to the bachelor Enciso, urging him to hurry 
along with his law book, and the needed reinforcements and 

After separating from Ojeda, Nicuesa sailed on westward 
in search of the Aurea Chersoneus he had come to govern. 
The booty had already been rich; from Columbus's account 
of the gold of the Rio Veragua, he had every reason to ex- 
pect even fatter pluckings. 


When he picked up the coast of the Isthmus, he ordered 
his two large ships to stand well out to sea. Lope de Olano, 
his second in command, was to keep in sight of him in the 
brigantine, while he in the little caravel would scout in 
close to shore. They passed the Veragua by mistake. 
Some of the sailors who had skirted the coast with Colum- 
bus seven years before discovered the error. They urged him 
to turn back. But with the cock-sure pigheadedness which 
was his salient characteristic he pushed on. 

A sudden storm, for which the coast is famous, caused 
the ships to tack out, away from the lea shore. Nicuesa, in 
his little cockle-shell boat, had to seek shelter in the cove 
made by a river's mouth. A sudden freshet wrecked the 
caravel. With great difficulty the company won safe to 
shore, in the long boat, but without provisions. In the 
morning Lope de Olano and his brigantine were nowhere to 
be seen. For awhile the little company waited on the beach 
for rescue. But Lope de Olano did not come for them. As 
the same gentleman had been one of the mutineers against 
Columbus, in the Rebellion of Santo Domingo, he has gen- 
erally been accused of deliberately deserting Nicuesa, in the 
hope of inheriting his governorship. Whatever his motives 
were, he rejoined the ships after the storm, told the company 
that the caravel had been lost with all on board. 

Nicuesa and the crew of the caravel found themselves in 
an exceedingly precarious position. They had no resources 
beyond those which the jungle and the sea offered them. 
They had no means of communication but the long boat. 
With a persistence worthy of a better cause Nicuesa in- 
sisted on pushing westward. The sailors, who knew they 
had passed the Rio Veragua which had been agreed upon 
as a rendezvous in case of separation urged him to turn 
back. But whatever his shortcomings, Nicuesa was a com- 
mander who commanded. And he marched his company 


westward along the beach. Four men in the long boat 
rowed along close inshore and ferried them across the in- 
numerable streams which empty into the sea. 

It was desperately slow progress, desperately scant fare, 
nothing but sea food and occasional cocoanuts. The silk 
raiment of the noble cavaliers was not built for such work. 
Nor were many of the men prepared for it. 

One day as they were passing along under a high cliff a 
javelin hummed down from the overhanging trees. It 
pierced the heart of Nicuesa's little page. The lad's white 
satin jacket, frayed as it was by the thorns, soiled by the 
mud of the rivers, had proved a good mark for the Indian. 
But beyond this they were not attacked they met no other 
sign of man. 

One evening they came to a large river, just before sun- 
down. There was hardly time to ferry them across before 
the darkness. In the morning the long boat had disap- 
peared. Their situation was made more desperate by the 
fact that they were not on the mainland, but on a delta of 
the river. Marooned on this island, without provisions, 
entirely dependent on shell-fish for food and on uncertain 
pools of rain-water for drink, most of them gave up hope. 
Nicuesa seems to have proved himself a brave man. 
He did what could be done to keep up their spirits. Three 
different times he persuaded them to build a raft, but they 
had no tools, no nails. Each time the surf smashed their 
flimsy floats to pieces. 

"There they continued a long time," Herrera writes, 
"some say above three months. Some of them dying daily 
through drinking brackish water; those that remained alive 
crawling about on all four, as not having Strength to walk." 

But the long boat had not foundered at sea, nor were 
Ribero, the boatswain, and his three companions guilty of 
malicious desertion. They knew the coast, knew that Nicu- 


esa was leading his followers every day farther from help 
and hope. So, taking things in their own hands, they 
slipped away during the night to see if they could bring a 

Lope de Olano, when he had assumed command of the 
main force of the expedition, had led them to the Rio 
Belen. They started a new settlement on the spot where 
Columbus and his brother Bartholomew had tried to found 
one seven years before. After incredible hardships, Ribero 
and his comrades found the encampment. Lope de Olano 
may not have welcomed the news that his governor was still 
alive, but he at once despatched the brigantine to the 

It arrived just in time. Nicuesa and the remnant of his 
company were too weakened to signal from the shore. 
They had watched so long for a sail in vain that they could 
hardly believe it, when they were carried on board and 
fed. > 

Nicuesa's first act on rejoining his colony was to order 
the imprisonment of Lope de Olano. Only the intercession 
of all the company saved his head. Once more in the sad- 
dle, Nicuesa rode hard. His arrogance returned, his un- 
popularity grew rapidly. In this unformed colony he tried 
to rule like a great monarch of an established kingdom. 

Quiban, the native chieftain, who had discomforted Bar- 
tholomew Columbus, was still lord of the coast. But he 
had discovered that famine was a surer weapon that his 
arrows. He had gathered his people together; they had 
rooted up all their plantations and had moved inland. The 
Spaniards very soon had to give up looking for gold. They 
needed food. 

"All those People being in such Distress, to add to it 
Nicuessa grew daily worse condition'd, and treated those 
few who remain'd very harshly." 


At last sickness and hunger forced them to give up the 
colony. They set sail in the hope of finding a kinder spot 
for their enterprise. As they coasted along eastward, one 
of the old sailors of Columbus's crew told them of the 
beautiful Puerto Bello and generous supply of cool springs. 
He guided the fleet thither half buried in the sand they saw 
an anchor which had been left by the Great Admiral. But 
when a party went ashore to fill their water casks they were 
attacked by Indians. The Spaniards were so weak from 
exposure and hunger that they could not wield their heavy 
weapons and were driven back to their boats. Not six 
months had passed since they had sailed so blithely from 
Santo Domingo to win and rule a kingdom. Now these 
old veterans of the Moorish wars had to retreat before a 
handful of naked savages. 

A little farther down the coast they came to a fair haven. 
They had hardly enough strength left to navigate. 

"Paremos aquf en el nombre de Dios!" (Let us stop here 
in the name of God), Nicuesa exclaimed. 

The superstitious sailors accepted his words as an omen; 
they disembarked, calling the place "Name of God." 

But even the magic of so great a name did not improve 
their condition. With their last energy they built a little 
fort. Then once more disease and hunger sat down among 

Nicuesa had left a few men at the Rio Belen to await the 
ripening of some corn. The party he sent to bring them to 
Nombre de Dios found them so reduced by starvation, that 
they were eating leather. His united forces mustered but 
one hundred. Six hundred had already perished. 

"Nicuessa and those few who remain' d with him were 
reduc'd to such Distress by Sickness and Famine, that not 
one of them was able to watch or stand Sentinel at Night, 
and thus they wasted away." 


Meanwhile the rival colony in Nueva Andalucfa, was 
faring little better. The little town of San Sebastien did 
not at first suffer so much from hunger. Their scourge was 
the poison, with which the natives tipped their arrows. 
So deadly was the venom that the slightest scratch meant 
a horrible death. Herrera gives interesting details as to 
the method of its manufacture: 

"This Poison was made with certain stinking grey Roots 
found along the Sea Coast, and being Burnt in Earthen 
Pipkins, they made a Paste with a sort of very black Pis- 
mires, as big as Beetles, so poisonous, that if they happened 
to bite a Man, it put him beside himself. They add to this 
Composition large Spiders, and hairy Worms, as long as half 
a Man's Finger, the Bite of which is as bad as that of the 
Pismires above mentioned, as also the Wings of a Bat 
and the Head and Tail of a Sea Fish called Tavorino, very 
venomous: besides Toads, the Tails of Snakes, and Man- 
ganillas, which are like beautiful Apples, but a deadly 
Poison. All these ingredients being set over a great Fire, 
in an open Field, remote from their towns, were boil'd in 
Pots, by a Slave, till they came to the proper Consistence 
and the Person that look'd to it dy'd of the Steam." 

This receipt was probably the work of someone's imagina- 
tion, but it shows vividly how fearfully the Spaniards re- 
garded these poisoned arrows. 

If the Bachelor Enciso had hurried with his reinforce- 
ments, San Sebastien might have won the distinction of 
enduring. But for some reason he delayed. Provisions 
began to run low. No more booty was to be found close 
by. And in the depths of the jungle the poisoned arrows 
reaped too deadly a harvest to make forays popular with 
the men. So efficacious had been Ojeda's picture of the 
Virgin, that as yet he had never lost blood in battle. So 
extraordinary had been his luck for he never spared him- 


self, was always in the front of the fight that the Indians 
began also to believe that his life was charmed. 

In order to test his vulnerability they set a trap for him. 
Four of their best marksmen hid in the trees, while their 
comrades made an attack on the colony. As was always his 
custom, Ojeda led the sortie. The wily savages retreated 
and the governor followed them into the ambush. Three of 
the arrows missed him, but one drove clear through his 

The colony was thrown into despair by this wound. It 
seemed that the Virgin had withdrawn her protection. In 
all their stay in the New World they had never seen one of 
their company recover from an arrow wound. But Ojeda 
was not the kind to despair, even when the Fates seemed 
to have decreed his death. One of the symptoms of the 
poisoning was a feeling of icy numbness about the wound. 
This suggested a heroic remedy to the governor. He or- 
dered his surgeon to heat two iron plates to the point of 
redness and clap them on the two orifices of the wound. 
Only under the threat of immediate hanging could the sur- 
geon be persuaded to apply so stringent a medicine. Ojeda 
stood the ordeal without flinching and recovered! Cer- 
tain modern historians, with the skepticism of their tribe, 
suggest that perhaps this particular arrow was not poisoned. 
But whether or not so painful a remedy was necessary there 
is no doubt that it was applied. 

After this accident Ojeda was a long time recovering 
from the burns the colony lost heart. The natives pressed 
so close to the fort that even the excursions for fresh water 
became dangerous. Famine came to them as it had to 
Nicuesa and his following. 

At last a ship was seen approaching. The fainting col- 
onists were cheered by the thought that it was the Bachelor 
Enciso. But once more they were to be disappointed. 


The brigantine turned out to be in the hands of a band 
of pirates, under the command of a dare-devil adventurer 
named Tolavera. When the brigantine, which Ojeda had 
despatched from San Sebastien, laden with the first spoils 
from his new province, reached Santo Domingo, every one 
who had not accompanied him cursed their luck, cursed the 
prudence which had kept them from joining him. Tolavera 
collected a gang of cut-throats from the taverns of the water 
front, marched them overland to a little cove where a 
Genoese brigantine was taking on lumber. They murdered 
the crew and set sail to join Ojeda. 

The small stock of provisions which they had brought 
relieved the immediate famine at San Sebastien but did 
not permanently strengthen their position. And when the 
pirates saw the ill condition of affairs, they decided that they 
would be better off in Santo Domingo, taking a chance at 
hanging for their piracy, rather than stay in Nueva Anda- 
lucia to die of hunger or poisoned arrows. 

Ojeda decided to sail with them and see what he could do 
to hurry up reinforcements. He left what was left of his 
forces under the command of Francisco Pizarro, with in- 
structions to hold on for fifty days. If in that time no word 
had been received either from him or Enciso, they could give 
up the colony and retreat to Santo Domingo in the two 
brigantines. The two ships had gone to pieces under the 
attack of the " Teredos." 

Ojeda, taking with him all the gold he had collected, 
embarked with Tolavera. This debonaire pirate was no 
sooner out of sight of land than he put the unfortunate 
governor in chains and appropriated the treasure. Ojeda 
offered to fight the whole ship's company if they would come 
at him two at a time. But they had not the courage to 
accept his challenge. And besides they were poor sailors 
and had had trouble navigating their ship and thought it 


well to keep at least one able seaman alive. In fact, they 
shortly ran into a hurricane and had to release him so that 
he could save the ship. They were in time wrecked on the 
shore of Cuba, as yet an unconquered island. For months 
they lived among the Indians amid great dangers and hard- 
ships. When they finally reached Santo Domingo, Ojeda 
was unjustly thrown into prison. 

"He died," Irving writes, "so poor that he did not leave 
money enough to pay for his interment; and so broken in 
spirit that, with his last breath, he entreated his body might 
be buried in the monastery of San Francisco, just at the 
portal, in humble expiation of his past pride, 'that every 
one who entered might tread upon his grave/ 

"Such was the fate of Alonso de Ojeda and who does 
not forget his errors and his faults at the threshold of his 
humble and untimely grave! He was one of the most fear- 
less and aspiring of the band of 'Ocean chivalry' that fol- 
lowed the footsteps of Columbus. His story presents a 
lively picture of the daring enterprises, the extravagant 
exploits, the thousand accidents, by flood and field, which 
checkered the life of a Spanish cavalier in that roving and 
romantic age." 

After Ojeda had left them, the colonists of San Sebastian 
continued their desperate struggle with famine and poisoned 
arrows. They held on grimly Francisco Pizarro, their 
commander, owed his ultimate fame to this bull-dog ability 
to hang on until the fifty days were up. No help had 
come. But an unlocked for obstacle prevented them from 
sailing at once. Out of the three hundred who had sailed 
from Santo Domingo, seventy were still alive. The two 
brigantines would not hold so many. None would consent 
to stay behind in the death-ridden place, so they had to 
wait "until famine, sickness, and the poisoned arrows of 
the Indians should reduce their number to the capacity of 


the brigantines." And Irving laconically continues: "A 
brief space of time was sufficient for the purpose." They 
killed and salted down the four horses which were left to 
them, and gathering up what meagre provisions they could 
find, embarked. Pizarro commanded one of the brigantines, 
Valenzuela the other. 

Outside of the port they at once encountered a storm. 
Valenzuela's boat suddenly fell apart and all hands were 

To quote again from Irving's picturesque narrative: 
"The other brigantine was so near, that the mariners wit- 
nessed the struggles of their drowning companions, and 
heard their cries. Some of the sailors, with the common 
disposition to the marvellous, declared that they beheld a 
great whale, or other monster of the deep, strike the vessel 
with its tail, and either stave in its sides or shatter the 
rudder, so as to cause the ship-wreck." 

And so Pizarro with about thirty men, pitching about on 
the storm-swept sea in a crazy, worm-eaten vessel, and 
Nicuesa with his hundred starving, despairing men at 
Nombre de Dios, were all that was left of the two brave 
companies which set out to colonize the Mainland. 



JUST about the time when the remnant of Ojeda's colony 
were deserting San Sebastien, the Bachelor Enciso, having 
completed his equipment, sailed from Santo Domingo. His 
ship was well laden with provisions and carried one hundred 
and fifty men. They took with them a dozen mares, "some 
horses, sows, with boars to breed." 

He touched first at Carthagena and, despite the massacre 
committed there by the joint forces of Ojeda and Nicuesa, was 
able to establish friendly relations with the natives. In the 
very few instances, like this one, where the Spaniards did 
not precipitate a fight, the Indians proved ready to receive 
them as friends. But as a rule the white men found it easier 
to get the gold ornaments from dead bodies, than by trade. 

As Enciso was getting up anchor to sail westward to San 
Sebastien, where he expected to find Ojeda and a thriving 
town, he was surprised to see a brigantine entering the 
harbor. The sight of a European sail in these waters was 
indeed unusual. But his surprise turned to anger when he 
discovered that the newcomers were men of Ojeda's com- 
pany. With his legal and suspicious mind he jumped at 
the conclusion that they were deserters and prepared to 
begin his career as Chief Justice of Nueva Andalucia by 
putting them in chains. But the captain of this gaunt and 
hungry crew, Francisco Pizarro, was not a man to be brow- 
beaten. He produced his commission signed by Ojeda. 

What the shock to the Bachelor's hopes their story must 


have been is easily imagined. More than fifty days had 
passed since Ojeda had sailed from San Sebastien. Nothing 
but some tragic misfortune could explain the fact that he 
had not reached Santo Domingo before Enciso sailed. 
Having come out to give laws to a prosperous community, 
the Bachelor found there was nothing to rule except what 
he might be able to conquer. 

Pizarro's little band wanted to return at once to Santo 
Domingo; they had had more than enough of hardship. But 
the Bachelor exerted his authority; he would at least have a 
look at the place he had come to govern. 

Of all the localities in the New World which proved un- 
lucky to the Spaniards, that of San Sebastien proved the 
worst. As they entered the harbor, Enciso's ship struck 
a rock and went to pieces. The company escaped ashore, 
but, in the words of Irving, "the unfortunate Bachelor 
beheld the proceeds of several years of prosperous litigation 
swallowed up in an instant. 

"His dream of place and dignity seemed equally on the 
point of vanishing; for, on landing, he found the fortress and 
its adjacent houses mere heaps of ruins, having been de- 
stroyed with fire by the Indians." 

In this moment of general discouragement, a man, for 
whom the Fates had arranged a great destiny, suddenly 
came to the front. 

"Once," he said, "when I coasted this gulf with Rodrigo 
de Bastides, on the western shore we found the country 
fertile and rich in gold. Provisions were abundant; and the 
natives, although warlike, do not use poisoned arrows. It 
lies just beyond the great river which the Indians called 

Momentous words these. They guided the Spaniards to 
their first secure foothold on the Continent of America. They 
were spoken by one of the least considered men of the crew, 

Copyright by Underwood & Under-wood. 



one who was referred to derisively as "el hombre del casco," 
Vasco Nunez de Balboa. 

At this time he was about thirty-five years old. Like most 
of the Conquistadores, he had been molded in the school of 
medieval chivalry. Born in Jerez de los Caballeros, he had 
seen much service during the Moorish wars in the retinue 
of Don Pedro Puertocarrero de Moguer. He had sought 
adventure in the New World, sailing these very waters, with 
Bastides in the famous voyage of 1500-1502. He had ac- 
quired very little gold on that expedition, but it had won for 
him greater wealth, a knowledge of the coast. It had pre- 
pared him to seize this, his great opportunity. 

After the voyage he had settled down in the colony of 
Santo Domingo, buying a farm in the hamlet of Salvatierra. 
But such was not the intention of his destiny; he failed 
miserably at agriculture. Tired of the insistent din of his 
creditors, hearing once more the call of the sea, he contrived 
to get aboard Enciso's ship in a barrel. 

"When, like Aphrodite, from her circling shell," Ban- 
croft's "Central America," "the serio-comic face of the 
bankrupt farmer appeared emerging from the provision cask, 
the bachiller was disposed to treat the matter magisterially, 
and threatened to land the refugee from justice on the first 
deserted island." 

However Enciso had not been able to recruit as many 
men as he had hoped. Vasco Nunez was in the prime of 
life, a hardy, experienced adventurer. So the Bachelor 
forgot his threat. His unexpected recruit, however, did 

During the voyage "el hombre del casco" had conducted 
himself modestly. Although the nickname had stuck to 
him, the crew had learned not to use it insultingly. In his 
quiet, diplomatic way he had earned the friendship of most 
of them, the respect of the rest. 


His suggestion to try the western shore of the Gulf of 
Darien was accepted by acclamation. Enciso, leaving some 
of his company in the hastily reconstructed stockade, crossed 
over with all the men who could crowd into the brigantine. 
The place to which Vasco Nunez guided them was in the 
territory of the Cacique Cemaco. (The old English chron- 
iclers write the name Cazique Zemaco. But the Spanish 
"c" before "i" or "e" is more nearly rendered in English 
by "th.") 

Cemaco seems to have been a fine old character. He 
never became reconciled to the conquest. For many years 
to come he never allowed his desire for revenge to cool. 
Again and again his name crops up in the old narratives. 
When he saw the ship approaching he sent his non-combat- 
ants up into the hills and met the invaders on the beach 
with five hundred men. 

Enciso had his notary read to the natives the same proc- 
lamation which Ojeda had used. And having made himself 
right in the eye of the law, he was equally scrupulously to 
observe the religious formalities. Bancroft summarizes the 
detailed accounts of the chroniclers in these words: "He 
invokes the powers above, vows to the Virgin that this 
heathen town shall be hers in name, if she will make it his in 
substance; vows, if she will give it him, that with Cemaco's 
gold he will build on Cemaco's land a church, and dedicate 
the sacred edifice to her adored image, Antigua of Seville. 
Moreover, he will make a pilgrimage to her holy shrine. 
Virgen Santissima ! " 

It is easy to poke fun at the religious formulas of these 
Conquistadores, and it seems to me a rather cheap humor. 
To them the formulas were not empty. This preposterous 
proclamation, in which they command the natives to accept 
the Pope, was not the concoction of the men who used it as 
a prelude to their butcheries. It was the product of the 


divinity authorities of the day. The Pope's Bull in which 
he gave half the unknown world to the Spaniards and half 
to the Portuguese was taken seriously by the learned men 
of the day. It is small wonder that these uncultivated 
soldiers believed it to be binding. 

We live in a day of easy tolerance. The Conquistadores 
had been trained in the Moorish wars, where prisoners from 
either side were given the choice between renouncing their 
religion and dying. We may easily say that the superstitions 
of those days were childish, but there is no ground for 
believing them hypocritical. Alonso de Ojeda, whatever 
his private vices, would have gone blithely to the stake, 
rather than desecrate his picture of the Virgin. 

The history of the Church is full of references to the heresy 
of Antinomism. Saint Paul inveighed against it. There has 
been hardly a decade since when the same heresy has not 
cropped out in some sect. It is, in short, a belief that if 
your spiritual relation to God is correct, you will be saved 
no matter what your physical relations, your personal ethics 
are. There was no age when this heresy was more generally 
condemned and, as such things go, more generally practised. 
Never has there been a greater divorce between Theology 
and Morals. But just in proportion as the ethic of Christen- 
dom became debauched, so sincere, fanatical devotion was 
given to the forms of worship. Enciso and his men were 
certainly bent on murder and rapine. But just as certainly 
they would not have fought as valorously if they had not 
first adored the Virgin. The Ironsides of England, chanting 
a psalm as they went into action, were no more devout. 

And thus forearmed, the Spaniards attacked with a fervor 
which soon overthrew the enemy. They found rich booty 
in Cemaco's village, which in accordance with their vow they 
rechristened " Santa Maria de la Antigua del Darien." In 
a few days they had gathered, besides large quantities of food, 


gold which amounted, according to living's estimate, to over 

They despatched the brigantine to San Sebastien to bring 
over the rest of their company to this El Dorado. The 
Bachelor Enciso lost his head as soon as it was crowned with 
prosperity. His mind was so befogged with legal lore, that 
he thought it more important to draw up a code than to plant 
corn. His enthusiasm for the intricate legal system of Spain 
blinded his eyes to the patent fact that laws are made for 
a community, and that the object of founding a colony was 
not to create a new field for legislation. It would be hard 
to imagine a body of men less likely to sympathize with his 
respect for law. The results of putting new wine into old 
bottles are mild indeed when compared to what happened 
when this aspiring judge announced his fiscal regulations. 
The colonists were not sufficiently civilized to allow him to 
take by law what they had won by sweat and blood. 

Once more Vasco Nunez stepped forward with a popular 
suggestion. Caution was the most salient characteristic 
of this man. There was none of the Conquist adores who 
could more blithely burn his boats behind him in case of 
need. But Balboa never did it recklessly. And especially 
in the wily business of political intrigue he was loathe to 
commit himself. He realized, as Bancroft says, that "law 
is safer than hemp for hanging, even lawyers!" He could 
easily have persuaded the colonists to dump Enciso into the 
sea. He chose a subtler way. 

When the malcontents grumbled about these bewildering 
laws, Vasco Nunez would take them aside, and ask why they 
submitted to Enciso's arrogance. " He was Alcalde Mayor 
for Ojeda, in Nueva Andalucfa. We've crossed the Darien 
River. This place is in Castilla del Oro, Nicuesa's territory. 
Enciso hasn't a legal leg to stand on." 

Vasco Nunez could truthfully say that he had obeyed all 


of the Bachelor's laws; he had not rebelled. But the colonists 
accepted his hint with a whoop. They refused to recognize 
Enciso, and held elections. They chose for Alcaldes Vasco 
Nunez and Martin Zamudio. 

However, things went no more smoothly for the new gov- 
ernment of Santa Maria than formerly. Vasco Nunez was 
following a very definite policy. First of all he ingratiated 
himself with the common soldiers. He was naturally fear- 
less, he knew exactly when to be theatrical. He had remark- 
able tact for smoothing out quarrels between individuals. 
He was scrupulously just in divisions of the spoil. And 
above all, he was tireless in providing for the comfort of his 
men. The historian Oviedo, who always put the worst 
construction on every act of Balboa, admits: "No chieftain 
who ever went to the Indies equalled him in these respects. " 

He was a master hand at intrigue. It was his policy to 
stay behind the scenes in the political dissension which, even 
more than the Indians, kept life in Santa Maria from becom- 
ing monotonous. He accomplished his ends by discreetly 
dropping a word or two where he knew it would be repeated. 

In public his position was always correct. He sympathized 
with the despoiled Enciso and advised him to take the colony 
back to San Sebastien, knowing very well that the colony 
would not go. Zamudio, his rival Alcalde, was a common 
soldier. Vasco Nunez was hail fellow well met with him 
and his kind. But he took pains to impress his rival's 
humble birth on the strong men of the colony who were 
pleased to consider themselves gentlemen. Apparently unin- 
terested in political brawls Balboa kept them at white heat. 

In the middle of November, 1510, the people of Santa 
Maria were surprised one morning to hear the sound of 
cannons faintly rumbling across the water from San Sebas- 
tien. They at once started great smudges of smoke to 
attract attention. Perhaps it was Ojeda come back with 


reinforcements. How the Bachelor's hopes must have soared 

It turned out to be Rodrigo Enriquez de Colmenares with 
a relief expedition for Nicuesa. When he arrived off the 
little settlement he was given a rousing welcome. With an 
abundant grant of provisions, the old familiar foods they 
had lacked so long, he established his popularity. Hearing 
of their political dissensions, he urged them to accept Nicuesa 
as their governor. Any change seemed good to the volatile 
company, and they selected two ambassadors Diego de 
Albites and the Bachelor Corral to accompany Colmenares 
on his hunt for Nicuesa, to tender their allegiance and a 
request that he should come and rule over them. 

Colmenares cruised along westward and at Nombre de 
Dios found Nicuesa and the handful of men who were left 
from his seven hundred. 

But to Nicuesa even more grateful than the sight of the 
rescuing ships was the news that there was a rich and thriv- 
ing town in his domains which invited him to rule over it. 

The unfortunate man's pride swelled up like a balloon. 
The choicest of Colmenares's provisions were turned into a 
banquet. Dressed in new clothes, Nicuesa recovered his 
old time gayety. Presiding at the feast, he lifted a baked 
fowl on a fork and carved it skilfully in the air. It was the 
trick which in happier days had won him the position of 
Royal Carver. The Spanish wine, after long months of 
deprivation, went to his head. He talked grandiloquently 
about what he would do in Santa Maria, how he would 
enforce all the fiscal laws and make everyone give an exact 
account of their booty. He would teach this upstart Balboa 
his place and as for Zamudio, he was a relative of the traitor 
Lope de Olano. Colmenares, having been in Santa Maria, 
and knowing the temper of the men, tried to stop his master's 
indiscreet flow of words. But Nicuesa, after his long mis- 


fortunes, would at least enjoy the glory of talking. The 
two ambassadors listened to it gloomily. What they heard 
from the survivors of Nicuesa's expedition did not give them 
any large encouragement. 

The governor had the insanity to let them start back to 
Santa Maria before him. The gist of their report to the 
colonists was that Nicuesa promised to be a worse tyrant 
than either Enciso or the present Alcaldes. 

It had been a serious mistake for Nicuesa to allow these 
ambassadors to go home ahead of him. But just along 
the line of such blunders lay his greatest talent. When at 
last he left Nombre de Dios, he stopped along the way to 
indulge his passion for making slave raids. After much 
loitering he sent a man ahead named Juan de Caicedo to 
prepare the colony for his august arrival. 

Later events proved that seventeen of the sixty men left 
from his expedition were loyal to him. But Caicedo was not 
one of these. Arrived at Santa Maria, he told worse stories 
of Nicuesa's tyranny and ingratitude than Albites and Corral 
had told. 

"What folly has possessed you," he demanded, "when 
you were your own masters and free to send for this mean- 
spirited tyrant to enslave you." 

Distressed by such disquieting news, the colonists, as they 
always did in a pinch, turned to Vasco Nunez. He promptly 
replied that Nicuesa was undoubtedly their lawful governor. 
He even went to the lengths of having a notary record the 
fact that he had made public acknowledgment of his fealty. 
But in secret he pointed out to his friends that if they had 
been foolish to invite Nicuesa, they would be doubly so to 
receive him. 

When at last the Governor's ship reached the harbor he 
found all the people gathered on the beach. But very quickly 
he discovered that they had not assembled to welcome him. 


The public prosecutor warned him not to land if he valued 
his life, and advised him to go back where he had come from. 
Nicuesa tried to argue but the unruly crowd only jeered at 
him. When night came on he was forced to put out to sea, 
but in the morning he returned, his pride so humbled that he 
asked them to receive him as a companion, if they did not 
want him as a governor. For some time they bickered. At 
length he thought it safe to land, but he had no sooner put 
foot on shore when he was attacked. He, besides being a 
dainty carver of royal meats, was a good runner. As he 
had owed his early advancement to the first accomplishment, 
so now he owed his life to his fleetness of foot. 

Exactly what game Vasco Nunez was playing in all this 
it is impossible to determine at this late day. There is a 
theory for almost every historian. It seems most probable 
to me that he had planned to let things go until Nicuesa was 
badly scared and then to appear as his rescuer, so to win 
his gratitude and preferment over his rivals Enciso and 
Zamudio. At all events he now offered shelter and protec- 
tion to the harassed governor. But if this had been his 
game, he had let things escape from his control. 

Zamudio saw clearly that if at this juncture Balboa was 
allowed to make friends with Nicuesa, he, Zamudio, who had 
been most open in the sedition, would fare very shabbily. He 
had gone too far to stop. So he did what he could to whip 
up the excitement of the mob. 

Nicuesa, all his arrogance wilted, begged that they would 
keep him as a prisoner, saying that he would rather stay in 
chains than return to the death-hole of Nombre de Dios. 
But Zamudio was committed to Nicuesa's destruction. He 
forced him and the seventeen followers who were loyal to 
him into the rottenest brigantine of their little fleet and forced 
him to sail. It was in March, 1511, that Nicuesa's boat left 
the harbor of Santa Maria. It was never heard from again. 


But whether or not Balboa's plans had gone wrong in this 
matter he set to work at once to get rid of his other two rivals. 
He persuaded Zamudio to bring a charge against Enciso of 
"illegal usurpation of authority." There is considerable 
grim humor in the thought of this Bachelor of Law arraigned 
before Judge Lynch. The two Alcaldes, who had decided 
on the sentence before the trial opened, allowed Enciso to 
talk and argue himself out. If he had been a truly dignified 
man he would have refused to take so grotesque a charge 
seriously, but it is probable that he gave his tormentors 
considerable sport. In common justice we must hope that 
Balboa made the most of this opportunity to bait a lawyer, 
for later they had their chance at him. The court found 
the "usurper" guilty, sentenced him to prison and confis- 
cated his goods. 

Balboa realized that a prisoner, in a community which is 
likely any day to storm its Bastile, is a constant source of 
danger. So he released the Bachelor on his promise to leave 
for Spain by the first boat. It was now Zamudio's turn. 

Herrera writes: "Basco Nunez considering that the wrongs 
done to James de Nicuesa and Enciso would some Time rise 
in Judgment and to engross all the Government in his own 
Hands, found means to persuade the other Alcalde, Za- 
mudio, his Partner, to go into Spain, to give an Account of 
the Colony there settled and the Reason there was to hope 
that the Country would produce great Wealth." 

Just what means Balboa found to persuade Zamudio to 
get out of the way, we do not know. 

But he at once fitted up the best of his brigantines, put 
Enciso and Zamudio aboard it, and gave the command to a 
friend named Valdivia. To this friend Valdivia he also 
intrusted the King's fifth of all their booty, and letters and 
rich presents to Diego Columbus, the Governor of Santo 
Domingo, and to Passamonte, the Royal Treasurer at Santo 


Domingo. It was thus ever his custom to play both the 
black and the red. 

Diego Columbus had been reinstated in the governorship of 
Santo Domingo and in most of his father's titles and honors. 
He was laying claim, under the Great Admiral's first con- 
tract with the Spanish throne, to all lands which his father 
had discovered. If the lawsuit was decided in his favor 
Castilla del Oro would be under his jurisdiction. If the 
King won the suit, as was the ordinary outcome of chivalric 
justice, it would be well to have "fixed" Passamonte, who 
had great influence. 

Valdivia was instructed to do all in his power, with the 
aid of these bribes and the promise of more, to get some sort 
of legalization for Balboa's government. 

The departure of this ship left Vasco Nunez in undis- 
puted control of the colony. It was beginning to take on 
the appearance of a town. The Indian huts had been re- 
placed by substantial houses, laid out in rectangular streets. 
In the center was a church, the first on the American con- 
tinent. A Franciscan monastery was in process of construc- 
tion. The plaza before the church, as was the case in most 
early Spanish towns, was adorned with a bull-pen prison 
and a gallows. 

Lack of provisions had wrecked every other colony on the 
Mainland. Vasco Nunez started his men in on agriculture. 
He was almost the only one of the Conquistadores who had 
an eye for such details. He was as hungry for gold, as keen 
for adventure as the next one, but he always looked out for 
the comfort of his men. 

But he had no intention to embellish a colony for some one 
else to govern. And he knew that the best way to establish 
his position, the way to justify his past and make sure his 
future, was by action action which would make gold flow 
into the coffers of the King. 

Copyright by Fishbctnsh. 




Herrera gives this account of his first move: 

"Basco Nunez sent Francis Pizarro with six Men to dis- 
cover the Country, who, having travelled three Leagues up 
the River, was attacked by four hundred Indians, under 
Command of the Cazique Zemaco, and hard press'd with their 
Arrows and Stones, but they closing, ripp'd up the bellies of 
one hundred and fifty of them, with their Swords, and 
wounded many more, the Rest fled." You are asked to accept 
these details on the honor of the official historian of the 
Spanish court! 

Pizarro returned to town with the news of his victory and 
also with the admission that a wounded Spaniard named 
Hernan had been left behind. This gave Vasco Nunez a 
chance for one of those theatrical plays which endeared him 
to the rough soldiers, and incidentally threw some discredit 
on a rival. 

"Go instantly," he shouted, "and bring me Francisco 
Hernan, and, as you value your life, never again leave one 
of my soldiers alive on the field of battle." 

The wounded soldier was brought back. Pizarro had to 
accept this stinging rebuke in silence. But he was the kind 
who remembered such things. 

Meanwhile Colmenares, who had transferred his allegiance 
to Vasco Nunez after the fiasco of Nicuesa, had been sent 
up the coast to Nombre de Dios to bring the remnant of that 
colony to Santa Maria. As they were returning, they were 
surprised to see two painted, naked savages come down on 
the beach and hail them in purest Castilian. They turned 
out to be two Spaniards, who many months before had 
incurred the anger of Nicuesa and had fled to the jungle. 
They had been adopted into the tribe of a powerful Cacique 
named Careta. They gave a glowing account of the riches 
of the chief's village. And it was arranged that one should 
return to Careta and prepare him to receive the Spaniards 


hospitably. The other came on to Santa Maria and told the 
story to Balboa. 

The arrival of this man was a great aid to the Spaniards. 
His knowledge of Indian languages was invaluable. 

The united colony now numbered over two hundred and 
fifty. By leaving the half-starved men of Nicuesa's com- 
pany to guard the town, Vasco Nunez could put about one 
hundred and fifty able ? seasoned warriors in the field. This 
was enough for him to set out on his career of conquest. 

The fame of Cortez's and Pizarro's conquests have so 
echoed in history that one hears little of Balboa's conquest 
of the Isthmus. The enemy he had to meet was not so 
highly organized as either the Aztecs or Peruvians. But this 
very fact made them harder to hold in subjection. Both 
Pizarro and Cortez, after the dashing raids, which put the 
sovereigns in their hands, were very largely assisted in 
maintaining their power by the extreme centralization of 
nations they had conquered. But the scattered Isthmian 
tribes had no centre, which once subdued, held the rest in line. 

Further, Balboa's conquest was not marred by the indis- 
criminate, unnecessary bloodshed of the later campaigns. 
He never massacred the natives when he could accomplish 
his aims without doing so, a really distinctive honor among 
the Conquist adores. 

From the outset he followed a definite policy. On his 
first encounter with a tribe he killed enough to make them 
sue for peace. And then when they were expecting him 
to slaughter the rest of them, he suddenly offered them peace 
and gave them assistance against their pet enemies. As his 
empire expanded there was always war on the frontier and 
peace within. Very seldom did any of the conquered tribes 
revolt, and during his days of power he never pushed the na- 
tives to the desperation which forced a war of extermination. 

His campaign against Careta was typical. Having been 


hospitably received and feasted, he left at twilight, to return 
in the dead of night. He put most of the village to the sword 
and returned to Santa Maria with Careta and his family 
and a number of prisoners, also a large booty. But instead 
of making a slave of the old chief or chopping off his ears as 
seems to have been the ordinary Spanish practice, Vasco 
Nunez made an alliance with him and started out with his 
men to reduce the Cacique Ponca, Careta's special enemy. 
Careta was so much touched by this unexpected leniency 
that he gave his daughter to Balboa and was his steadfast 
friend in the future. Although Vasco Nunez never married 
the girl according to the Christian rites, Herrera testifies 
that "he always lov'd and cherish'd her very much." 

After overthrowing Ponca, Balboa made a friendly visit 
to the village of Comagre, the greatest cacique of the coast. 
His tribe numbered over ten thousand and he had at least 
three thousand warriors. Herrera tells us that: "His palace 
was more remarkable and better built that any that had yet 
been seen either on the Islands or the little that was known of 
the Continent, being one hundred and fifty Paces in Length 
and eighty in Breadth ... so beautifully wrought, 
that the Spaniards were amaz'd at the Sight of it, and could 
not express the Manner and Curiosity of it. There were in 
it several Chambers and Apartments, and one that was like 
a Buttery was full of such Provisions as the Country afforded, 
as Bread, Venison, Swine's Flesh, etc. There was another 
large Room like a Cellar, full of earthen Vessels, containing 
Several sorts of white and red Liquors, made of Indian 
Wheat, Roots, a kind of Palm-Tree and other Ingredients, 
the which Liquors the Spaniards commended, when they 
drank them." 

Here by peaceful means the Spaniards secured much gold, 
and more important information. Panciaco, one of the 
seven sons of the Cacique, seeing them quarrelling over the 


division of the gold, told them of rich countries to the south 
on the border of a great sea only a few days' journey away. 
He offered to guide them to it, but said that the way was 
blocked by several warlike tribes and that they could not 
hope to pass with less than a thousand warriors. 

This was the first authentic information which had reached 
European ears of the Pacific Ocean. Vasco Nunez had found 
the thing he was to do. 

Returned to Santa Maria they found that Valdivia had 
returned from Santo Domingo with a small stock of pro- 
visions. He also brought a letter from Diego Columbus 
authorizing Balboa to act as his lieutenant. The real value 
of the document hung in the scales of justice in Madrid, 
and on the other side of the scales rested the heavy fist of 
the King. However, with no title at all Vasco Nunez could 
not afford to scon 7 at an uncertain one. 

Valdivia was again sent to Santo Domingo with letters and 
presents to the governor and to the royal treasurer, with 
urgent requests for a thousand men that the exploration of 
the country might be pushed forward. Besides these official 
bribes and the King's fifth, most of the colonists sent their 
private shares of the booty. 

One of the earliest books on America, printed in English, 
"The Decades of the newe worlde of west India. . . . 
Wrytten in the Latine tounge by Peter Martyr of Angleria, 
and translated into Englysshe by Richarde Eden, Londoni 
. . . 1555," contains a glowing description of the treasure 
sent on this ship. It is a good example of queer diction, and 
erratic spelling, from which our Anglo-Saxon forbears re- 
ceived their first ideas of the New World. 

"The sameValdiuia was also sent on this message, caryinge 
with hym to the Kinges treasourers (hauinge theyr office of 
recepte in Hispaniola) three hundreth poundes weyght of 
golde after eyght ounces to the pounde, for the fyfte portion 


dewe to the Kynges escheker. This pounde of VIII vnces, 
the Spanyardes caule Marcha, whiche in weyght amounteth 
to fyftie pieces of golde cauled Castellani. . . . We 
conclude, therefore, that the sume hereof, was XV thousande 
of those peeces of golde cauled Castellani. And thus is it 
apparente by this accompte, that they receaued of the bar- 
barous kynges, a thousande and fyue hundreth poundes of 
eyght ounces to the pounde redy wrought in sundry kyndes 
of ouches, as cheynes, braselets, tablets, and plates, both to 
hange before theyr brestes. and also at theyr eares and nose- 

Immediately after the departure of Valdivia, Vasco Nunez 
set out on a new campaign, with 160 men. This time he 
took the opposite direction, going up the river Darien. On 
the whole it was a successful raid, although two canoes over- 
loaded with booty were upset by the swift current. 

But a branch colony which he tried to establish up the 
river came to grief. Bartholome" Hurtado was left in com- 
mand of thirty men. Within a few days half were sick. 
Hurtado sent his invalids, with twenty-four captives and 
all but ten of his well men down stream in canoes. They 
were attacked and overpowered by their old enemy Cemaco. 
Two of them managed to swim under water to the bank and 
so escaped alive. They rejoined Hurtado, who, having 
heard from other sources of a confederation of five tribes 
who were planning to throw off the Spanish yoke, hurried 
down to Santa Maria to warn the colony. Balboa seems to 
have scorned this warning, thinking it inspired by cowardice. 
But the rumor was verified from another quarter. 

Peter Martyr referring to the threatened massacre says it 
"had surely come to passe, if it had not byn otherwyse 
hyndered by gods providence. It is therefore ascrybed to a 
myracle. . . . Vaschus Nunnez therefore, who rather 
by poure than by election vsurped the gouernaunce in 


Dariena, beinge a master of fence, and rather a rasshe 
royster then politike capitayne (althowgh fortune sumtyme 
fauoureth fooles) amonge many women which in dyuers of 
these regions he had taken captyue, had one whiche in fauore 
and bewtie excelled all other. To this woman her owne 
brother often tymes resorted, who was also dryuen oute of 
his countrey with kynge Cemacchus, with whom he was 
very familier and one of his chiefe gentelmen. Amonge other 
communications whiche he had with his syster whom he 
loued entierly, he vttered these woordes. My deare and 
welbeloued syster, gyue eare to my sayinges, and keepe moste 
secreatelye that whiche I wyll declare vnto yowe, yf youe 
desyre youre oune welth and myne, and the prosperitie of oure 
contrey and kynsefolkes. . . . And therefore admon- 
yshed her, at the daye appoynted by sume occasion to con- 
ueigh herselfe oute of the way, leste shee shuld bee slayne 
in the confusion of bataile. . . . And thus shewinge his 
syster the daye assigned to the slowghter, he departed. But 
the younge woman . . . forgettinge her parentes, her 
kynsfolkes, her countrey and all her frindes, ye and all the 
kinges into whose throtes Vaschus had thruste his sworde, 
she opened all the matter unto hym, and conceled none of 
those things whiche her vndiscrete broother had declared to 

Not all the contemporaneous writers have claimed that this 
girl she had been baptized with name Fulvia was one of 
Balboa's household. In fact, with the exception of this 
passage from Peter Martyr, who got all of his information 
from Enciso, there is little evidence that Vasco Nunez was 
the girl's lover. 

Many later historians have seized this opportunity to 
relieve their dry record of facts by a bit of romancing. They 
have consecrated many pages to the tender struggle in the 
breast of this fair savage between her love and her duty to 


her country. But in spite of all embroidery it is a sad 
and sordid story. 

That these simple-minded Indian girls should have become 
mistresses to the conquerors they were more than half 
slaves is small wonder. But that the Spaniards should 
have elaborately received them into the church by baptism 
before debauching them is perhaps the most striking example 
of their bizarre attitude toward religion. 

This Fulvia betrayed the conspiracy and at the instigation 
of the Spaniards, enticed her brother back into the settlement 
and turned him over to them to be tortured into confession. 
Working on the information wracked out of this young man, 
who had loved his sister too well, Vasco Nunez was able to 
surprise the confederated chiefs. Only his implacable old 
enemy Cemaco escaped. 

So thorough was Balboa's vengeance for this revolt, that 
the "Peace of Warsaw" reigned about Santa Maria. 

Returned from this foray, the colonists began to worry 
about Valdivia. His boat was overdue. It was at the 
bottom of the ocean, with all their treasure. It had been 
driven by storms onto the coast of Yucatan. So worried 
did the colony become at the lack of news from Santo 
Domingo that they resolved to send out their last ship. 
Colmenares and Caicedo were chosen as commissioners. 
They sailed in October, 1512, about two years after Col- 
menares had first arrived with reinforcements for Nicuesa. 

For some time the colony had been kept busy by fighting. 
Now peace had been established, and Vasco Nunez did not 
have a large enough force to launch on his more ambitious 
plan of crossing to the Southern sea. So now in their 
idleness the colonists fell to bickering again. The cause 
of the trouble was the great pile of gold which they had 
brought in from the Darien raids and which had not yet 
been distributed. Vasco Nunez held things together as 


long as he could. In their present excited condition it was 
evident that even the Archangel Gabriel could not have 
divided the spoil to every one's satisfaction. When he could 
keep them from it no longer, preferring to have them cut 
each other's throats to making himself unpopular, he left 
the town one night and went on a hunting expedition with 
his father-in-law, Careta. 

The factions exploded at once. There was consideraole 
rioting and some bloodshed. After the mob had vented 
most of its spleen, the reliable friends of Vasco Nunez began 
pointing out the folly of civil war over a few hundred pounds 
of gold when there was so much more to be won. Of course 
this riotous distribution had been unfair. It took a cool- 
headed man like Vasco Nunez to be just. And think of the 
rich plunder to be gained under his leadership as soon as 
reinforcements came. With such words as these his friends 
were busy. When the time was ripe Balboa returned as if 
nothing had happened. It was a typical piece of his diplom- 
acy. He was tighter in the saddle than ever before. 

The reconciliation had hardly taken place when two ships 
entered the harbor. They came from Diego Columbus and 
were laden down with provisions and bore a hundred and 
fifty new recruits. Not the thousand, Vasco Nunez had 
asked for, but that letter had not reached its destination. 

On the ships came two letters for Balboa. One was from 
Passamonte, the King's treasurer. It contained the long- 
desired Royal Commission, appointing him Governor of 
Castilla del Oro. At last he had firm ground under his feet. 
But the vision of power which this letter opened for him 
received a severe blow from the other letter. It was from 
Zamudio. Things had not gone well with him at court. 
Enciso's legal training stood him in better stead in Madrid 
than it had in Darien. He had easily won the race to royal 
favor. Zamudio was having a hard time to keep out of jail. 


And he warned Vasco Nunez that warrants summoning him 
to Madrid to answer Enciso's charges were on the way. 

The first letter Balboa published broadcast; the other he 
folded away carefully. In the midst of the general rejoicing 
that evening, he was busy figuring out how many days he 
could count on between the arrival of this letter from Zamudi 
and the royal warrants which were following it. 



THESE two letters the one making Balboa unquestioned 
master of the colony, the other warning him of the king's 
anger hastened the discovery of the Pacific. 

The Indian chief Panciaco had told Vasco Nunez that he 
would need a thousand men to force his way through the 
hostile tribes of the interior, and he had been waiting until 
he could muster that number. With the warrant for his 
arrest due on the next boat there was no longer time for 
waiting. The one avenue of escape from royal displeasure 
was the trail of discovery. Some resounding achievement 
might, in spite of his enemies, win for him the favor of his 
sovereign. That the means at his disposal were limited 
would only add to his glory. 

On September 1st, 1513, Vasco Nunez set out on his 
great adventure. 

He had with him one hundred and ninety men. But 
they were picked men as hard as the struggle through 
which they had survived. Most of them had seen four 
years service on this coast. No one unfit could have 
stood out so long against the famine and the fever. 

Peter Martyr, in the history of the Indies which he wrote 
for the Pope, gave Balboa's followers this character: 

"The owlde souldiers of Dariena, were hardened to abyde 
all sorowes, and exceadynge tollerable of labour, heate, 
hunger, and watchynge: In so muche that merilye they 
make their booste that they have obserued a longer and 
sharper lent than euer youre holinesse inioyned." 



Vasco Nunez explained to them the object of the expedi- 
tion, giving them all a chance to withdraw. They knew 
from bitter experience the nature of the work before them 
not one of them turned back. It was in crises like these 
that the spirit of these adventurers, this remnant of the 
old chivalry, shone brightest. Heathen nations were to be 
won for the Church. Glory was calling them. And booty. 
It is useless to try to separate these motives. The cause of 
Christ influenced some of them. The "execrable sed d'oro" 
inspired others. Probably there were none of all the com- 
pany who did not, in varying degree, feel the pull of all 
three motives. 

The principal ally of this little band was a pack of blood- 
hounds, and they were no mean assistance. The horses of 
the Spaniards terrified the natives of Mexico. But horses 
could not penetrate into the trackless jungle. But it is 
doubtful if horses could have inspired more terror than 
these wonderfully trained dogs. How highly they were 
esteemed by the Spaniards is witnessed by the fact that all 
the early chroniclers give much space to describing them. 

Bancroft gives the following account of one of them: 
" Among the dogs which accompanied the expedition was 
one, the property of the commander, whose pedigree and 
metaphysical traits and mighty deeds are minutely recorded 
by contemporary historians. His name was Leoncico, little 
lion, descendant of Becerrico, of the Island of San Juan. 
He was in color red with black snout, of medium size and 
extraordinary strength. In their foragings Leoncico counted 
as one man, and drew captain's pay and share of spoils. 
Upon these conditions his master frequently loaned him; 
and during the wars of Darien he gained for Vasco Nunez 
more than one thousand pesos de oro. He was considered 
more efficient than the best soldier, and the savages stood 
in the greatest terror of him. He readily discriminated be- 


tween wild and tame Indians. . . . The hero of many 
a conflict, he was covered with wounds, ... he escaped 
the wars to meet his death by treacherous hands. He was 

The company sailed along the coast four days to the vil- 
lage of Careta Balboa's father-in-law. There they rested 
two days, recruiting a large force of Indians Irving esti- 
mates it at one thousand as carriers. 

No one who has not at first hand struggled with the jungle 
can begin to appreciate the difficulties before Balboa. 

In December of 1853, Captain Prevost of the British 
Navy, with a detachment from H. M. S. Virago, landed 
near the Gulf of San Miguel with fourteen days' provisions. 
His intention was to cross the Isthmus to Caledonia Bay on 
the Caribbean. He had to give it up. He recounts the 
hardships they encountered in the "Journal of the London 
Geographical Society," volume XXIV. "So toilsome was 
our journey that we spent fifteen days in performing a dis- 
tance of little more than twenty-six miles, having to force 
our slow and laborious path through forests that seemed to 
stretch from the Pacific to the Atlantic shores. The trees, 
of stupendous size, were matted with creepers and parasiti- 
cal vines, which hung in festoons from tree to tree, forming 
an almost impenetrable net-work, and obliging us to hew 
open a passage with our axes every step we advanced" 
(quoted by Bancroft). 

There are some parts of the Isthmus which have not yet 
been surveyed by white men. Even in the western part, 
where the Indians are completely pacified and hospitable, it 
would be difficult to move a large body of men. After leav- 
ing the village of Careta, Vasco Nunez was in hostile terri- 

Another serious handicap was that he started toward the 
end, the very worst, of the wet season. The rains begin in 


April and do not stop until the middle of December. It is 
inconceivable that the Indians should not have urged Bal- 
boa to postpone his expedition until the beginning of the 
dry season. But he could not wait. 

The chronology of his march is greatly confused in the 
original documents. I have accepted the dates given by 
Bancroft. While many of them are disputable, they are at 
least consistent and as good as any given by other histo- 

On the 8th of September the Spaniards entered the terri- 
tory of the Cacique Ponca. At first the Indians fled before 
the invaders, but Vasco Nunez, not wishing to leave any 
enemy in his rear, made a friendly alliance with them. He 
stayed in Ponca village, feting the treaty, until the 20th. 

For four days they struggled in the jungle, part of the 
time without food. As they entered the territory of Qua- 
requ on the 24th, they were met by the Cacique Porque 
and one thousand warriors. 

It was the first time that this tribe had come into contact 
with the white man. Despite the wonder of firearms and 
the bloodhounds, the Indians held their ground stubbornly. 
Several times the half-starved Spaniards charged to their 
war-cry "Santiago y a ellos!" It was not until Porque 
and six hundred of his men had fallen that the day was 
won. In the village of the dead chieftain the adventurers 
found abundant provisions. 

On the next day, the 25th of September, Vasco Nunez 
climbed that "peak of Darien" from which he first saw the 

The old chroniclers call it "Sierra Quarequa " " The 
Mountain of Quarequa." It has never been definitely 
located. We are by no means sure of the course of this 
march. Hubert Bancroft has tried to give the precise 
route and has probably come as near to it as any modern 


historian can, but much of it is mere guesswork. Careta's 
territory, from which Vasco Nunez and his company started, 
was probably within fifty miles of the Caledonia Bay now 
on the map. They came finally to the Gulf of San Miguel, 
but the course of their wanderings between these points is 

So hard had the trail proven already that only sixty-seven 
of the original one hundred and ninety were strong enough 
to make the ascent that morning with their leader. The 
crest of the mountain was almost bare of trees. About ten 
in the morning, a few hundred feet from the summit, Vasco 
Nunez halted his men, sweating and panting from the steep, 
hot climb. Without waiting for breath, he went on up 

If ever the crisis in a man's life faced him in the concrete, 
it was the case of Vasco Nunez. If the Indians had deceived 
him, if from the summit he could see no ocean but the 
waving tree tops, there would be no alternative but an 
ignominious return to Santa Maria, to await the messengers 
of the King's anger. Disappointment certainly meant 
chains, and probably death. But if there was a sea his 
only reason to hope for it was the word of an Indian against 
all the science of his day if there was a sea it meant glory 
and honor and position. It meant the immortal fame which 
would put him side by side with Columbus. 

One of the most eloquent and suggestive passages in the 
works of Washington Irving is where he describes this first 
vision of the new sea. 

"With palpitating heart, he ascended alone the bare 
mountain-top. On reaching the summit, the long-desired 
prospect burst upon his view. It was as if a new world 
were unfolded to him, separated from all hitherto known 
by this mighty barrier of mountains. Below him extended 
a vast chaos of rock and forest, and green savannas and 


wandering streams, while at a distance the waters of the 
promised ocean glittered in the morning sun. 

"At this glorious prospect Vasco Nunez sank upon his 
knees, and poured out thanks to God, for being the first 
European to whom it was given to make that great dis- 
covery. He then called his people to ascend: 'Behold, my 
friends,' said he, 'that glorious sight which we have so 
much desired. Let us give thanks to God that He has 
granted us this great honor and advantage. Let us pray to 
Him to guide and aid us to conquer the sea and land which 
we have discovered, and which Christian has never entered 
to preach the holy doctrine of the Evangelists. As to your- 
selves, be as you have hitherto been, faithful and true to 
me, and by the favor of Christ you will become the richest 
Spaniards that have ever come to the Indies; you will 
render the greatest services to your king that ever vassal 
rendered to his lord; and you will have the eternal glory 
and advantage of all that is here discovered, conquered, and 
converted to our holy Catholic faith.' 

"The Spaniards answered this speech by embracing Vasco 
Nunez, and promising to follow him to death. Among them 
was a priest, named Andreas de Veram, who lifted up his 
voice and chanted Te Deum laudamus, the usual anthem of 
Spanish discoverers. The rest, kneeling down, joined in the 
strain with pious enthusiasm and tears of joy; and never 
did a more sincere oblation rise to the Deity from a sancti- 
fied altar, than from that mountain summit. It was indeed 
one of the most sublime discoveries that had yet been made 
in the New World, and must have opened a boundless field 
of conjecture to the wondering Spaniards. The imagination 
delights to picture forth the splendid confusion of their 
thoughts. Was this the great Indian Ocean, studded with 
precious islands, abounding in gold, in gems, in spices, and 
bordered by the gorgeous cities and wealthy marts of the 


East? Or was it some lonely sea, locked up in the embraces 
of savage uncultivated continents, and never traversed by a 
bark, excepting the light pirogue of the savage? The 
latter could hardly be the case, for the natives had told the 
Spaniards of golden realms, and populous and powerful and 
luxurious nations upon its shores. Perhaps it might be bor- 
dered by various people, civilized in fact, though differing 
from Europe in their civilization; who might have peculiar 
laws and customs, and arts and sciences; who might form, 
as it were, a world of their own, intercommuning by this 
mighty sea, and carrying on commerce between their own 
islands and continents; but who might exist in total igno- 
rance and independence of the other hemisphere. 

"Such may naturally have been the ideas suggested by 
the sight of this unknown ocean. It was the prevalent be- 
lief of the Spaniards, however, that they were the first 
Christians who had made the discovery. Vasco Nunez, 
therefore, called upon all present to witness that he took 
possession of that sea, its islands, and surrounding lands, in 
the name of the sovereigns of Castile. And the notary of 
the expedition made a testimonial of the same, to which all 
present, to the number of sixty-seven men, signed their 
names. He then caused a fair and tall tree to be cut down 
and wrought into a cross, which was elevated on the spot 
whence he had first beheld the sea. A mound of stones was 
likewise piled up to serve as a monument, and the names of 
the Castilian sovereigns were carved on the neighboring 
trees. The Indians beheld all these ceremonials and re- 
joicings in silent wonder, and while they aided to erect the 
cross, and piled up the mound of stones, marvelled exceed- 
ingly at the meaning of these monuments, little thinking 
that they marked the subjugation of their land." 

Indeed almost every historian of this great event has been 
filled with eloquent enthusiasm. Even old Peter Martyr, a 


most cordial enemy of Vasco Nunez, forgets his spite when 
he tells of this expedition, 

The Era of Discovery is past. There is nothing left now 
that the South Pole has been reached. But these men 
who looked at each other "with a wild surmise," did not 
even know that they stood upon a new continent. Many 
years were yet to pass before the Old World scholars real- 
ized that America was not Asia. The cosmographie of the 
day held no room for a new world. The globes in use 
represented too small a world to contain a new continent 
much less a new ocean, greater than the one Columbus 

To-day we discover a new star because our reason tells us 
it should be there. Balboa had discovered a sea where 
reason said there should be none. 

The next day he started down towards the coast. "And 
going thither" the quotation is from John Ogilby, Esq., 
His Britannic Majesty's Cosmographer, Geographick Printer 
and Master of the Revels in the Kingdom of Ireland, from his 
book "America," printed in 1671 "he was met by King 
Chiapes, leading an Army of thirty thousand Men, which 
great Body stood not long to make Resistance, being terri- 
fi'd with the Volleys of Shots, whose Report the ecchoing 
Valleys presented to their Ears, double and trebble : And that 
which most amaz'd and disanimated them in the rout, were 
the Dogs, who fiercely pursu'd and seiz'd the flyres, tearing 
away great morsels of Flesh. After the Battel, the Con- 
queror proffer'd Peace, which was agreed on, upon the 
delivery of several great Presents of Gold." Oviedo 
says that the price of peace was five hundred pounds of 

Vasco Nunez sent back the guides who had come from 
Quarequd with orders for his stragglers to join him at the 
village of Chiapes. He sent out three scouting parties, 


under Pizarro, Alonso de Ben Benito and Juan de Escary, 
to discover the shortest route to the sea. 

After two days struggling with the jungle Ben Benito's 
party reached the beach. He found a native dug-out tied 
upon the bank. Jumping into it, he shouted to his compan- 
ions, "I call you all to witness that I am the first Spaniard 
to sail upon these waters." There was not one of the com- 
pany who did not realize that glory was near at hand. 

On St. Michael's Day, September 29th, Balboa with 
twenty-six of his men came to the place discovered by Ben 
Benito. It had taken them twenty-three days to cross from 
ocean to ocean. The tide was out when they arrived. 
Once more I will hand the narrative over to Irving: 

"After a while, the water came rushing in with great 
impetuosity, and soon reached nearly to the place where the 
Spaniards were reposing. Upon this Vasco Nunez rose and 
took a banner on which were painted the Virgin and Child, 
and under them the arms of Castile and Leon; then drawing 
his sword and throwing his buckler on his shoulder, he 
marched into the sea until the water reached above his 
knees, and waving his banner, exclaimed with a loud voice, 
'Long live the high and mighty monarchs, Don Ferdinand 
and Donna Juana, sovereigns of Castile, of Leon, and of 
Arragon, in whose name, and for the royal crown of Castile, 
I take real, and corporal, and actual possession of these seas, 
and lands, and coasts, and ports, and islands of the south, 
and all thereunto annexed; and of the kingdoms and prov- 
inces which do or may appertain to them, in whatever man- 
ner, or by whatever right or title, ancient or modern, in 
times past, present, or to come, without any contradiction; 
and if other prince or captain, Christian or infidel, or of any 
law, sect or condition whatsoever, shall pretend any right 
to these lands and seas, I am ready and prepared to main- 
tain and defend them, in the name of the Castilian sover- 


eigns present and future, whose is the empire and dominion 
over these Indian islands, and Terra Firma, northern and 
southern, with all their seas, both at the arctic and antarctic 
poles, on either side of the equinoctial line, whether within 
or without the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, both now 
and in all times, as long as the world endures, and unto the 
final day of judgment of all mankind.' 

"This swelling declaration and defiance being uttered 
with a loud voice, and no one appearing to dispute his pre- 
tensions, Vasco Nunez called upon his companions to bear 
witness of the fact of his having duly taken possession. 
They all declared themselves ready to defend his claim to 
the uttermost, as became true and loyal vassals to the Cas- 
tilian sovereigns; and the notary having drawn up a docu- 
ment for the occasion, they subscribed it with their names. 

"This done, they advanced to the margin of the sea, and 
stooping down, tasted its waters. When they found that, 
though severed by intervening mountains and continents, 
they were salt like the seas of the north, they felt assured 
that they had indeed discovered an ocean, and again re- 
turned thanks to God. 

"Having concluded all these ceremonies, Vasco Nunez 
drew a dagger from his girdle, and cut a cross on a tree which 
grew within the water, and made two other crosses on two 
adjacent trees, in honor of the Three Persons of the Trinity, 
and in token of possession. His followers likewise cut 
crosses on many of the tress of the adjacent forest, and lopped 
off branches with their swords to bear away as trophies. 

"Such was the singular medley of chivalrous and religious 
ceremonial, with which these Spanish adventurers took pos- 
session of the vast Pacific Ocean, and all its lands a scene 
strongly characteristic of the nation and the age." 

The Spaniards then returned to the village of Chiapes, 
"richer," according to Bancroft, "by one Pacific Ocean, ten 


thousand islands, and twenty-five hundred leagues of conti- 
nental seaboard." 

And now, having accomplished fame, they turned their 
attention to more sordid things. Chiapes proved to be a 
valuable friend. His particular enemy, the Cacique Cocura, 
was a rich man. By a quick raid the Spaniards secured 
650 pesos of gold. 

Chiapes was unweary in well doing and pointed out 
another enemy, the Cacique Tumaco. His domain lay on 
the other side of the Gulf. On the 17th of October, with 
eighty men, Balboa and Chiapes started out in cayukas to 
visit him. A sudden storm nearly ended the career of the 
great discoverer. They were wrecked on a tidal bar and 
had to spend the night waist deep in water. But at low-tide 
in the morning they were able to patch up their canoes and 
get ashore near Tumaco's village. Once more there was a 
fight by way of introduction. It so impressed Tumaco with 
the power of the white man that he paid Vasco Nunez 614 
pesos of gold and a basin of pearls, 240 of which were of 
extraordinary size. 

Balboa was the only one of the Conquistadores who had 
the knack of making friends with the conquered. Of an- 
other chief who had just suffered a severe defeat, Peter 
Martyr wrote: 

"Vaschus enterteyned hym very frendely, and persuaded 
him neuer therafter to stande in feare. Thus they ioyned 
handes, embrased, and gaue greate gyftes the one to the 
other to knytte up the knotte of continuall amitie." 

He had crossed the Isthmus, entering each new village at 
the point of the sword and always making so friendly an 
alliance with the defeated caciques that he was able to leave 
his sick and wounded in their care as he pushed on. It 
was a truly remarkable performance. 

They stayed nearly two weeks with Tumaco. He took 







them over his pearl fisheries. In four days his divers brought 
up ninety-six ounces of pearls. And he told them tales of 
the greater riches of Peru to the south. Francisco Pizarro 
was one of the men who sat by the campfire and listened 
to these stories. 

On the 29th Tumaco loaned them his great war-canoe 
the largest native boat they had yet seen. Balboa writes 
the king that the paddles were inlaid with pearls probably 
mother-of-pearl. And in this immense dug-out, rowed by 
the Cacique's slaves, they went out of the Gulf into the 
ocean. For Balboa was not quite content with the cere- 
monies he had performed on the Gulf. To make doubly 
sure, he repeated them on the sea-coast. Herrera writes: 
" Herein he used all the formalities that could be imagined, 
for he was brave, subtle, diligent and of a generous temper, 
a commander fit for mighty enterprises." 

Coming back from these ceremonies, the Indians pointed 
out the group of islands which broke the southern horizon. 
There they said lived a cruel chief who sometimes descended 
on the mainland and harried their villages. The Spaniards 
were probably more interested to hear that the islands were 
rich in pearls. 

Balboa would have liked to visit this Cacique. But the 
dangers of navigation in native boats during the season of 
storms was too great. He gave the archipelago the name 
it still retains, Islas des Perles. He promised his friend 
Chiapes to return in a few months and make an end of this 
terror of the coast. 

On November 3rd, again leaving his sick and wounded 
with the friendly Indians, he started back. Chiapes accom- 
panied him part of the way. In canoes they went up one 
of the large rivers which enter into the Gulf of San Miguel 
either the Savanahs or the Chucunaque. 

Up this river, they entered the territory of Teoca. This 


Cacique was easily subdued and the booty of the Spaniards 
was increased by one hundred and sixty ounces of gold and 
two hundred large pearls. Once more Balboa consum- 
mated his victory by an alliance of real friendship. This 
characteristic of Vasco Nunez cannot be emphasized too 
strongly. More than any other thing it differentiates him 
from the other Conquist adores. The old chronicles give 
touching accounts of how Chiapes, when the time came for 
turning back to his own people, broke into tears at parting 
from his white friend. 

After leaving the river the Spaniards met the hardest 
climbing of all the trail. It was a triumph for the tactics 
of their leader that they crossed the mountain without loss 
of life. They could not have done so without the friendship 
and aid of their Indian allies. 

On the top of the mountain lived and ruled a desolate old 
tyrant named Poncra. If half of what the chroniclers say 
of him was true, he had considerably more crimes to his 
record than the entire Borgia family. So generally was he 
hated that no sooner had Balboa conquered him than all his 
neighbors, his own subjects as well as his enemies, clamored 
for his death 

"The guides which Teaocha had provided for the Span- 
iards," Ogilby writes, "desir'd that he (Poncra) might be 
put to Death, for the cruelties which he had long committed, 
whose Request being granted, he with the other three Princes, 
were given as a breakfast to the Spanish doggs." 

Bancroft is greatly shocked by this incident and says 
that it is the blackest stain on the record of Balboa. It 
was bad indeed, but the times were bad. Vasco Nunez 
never committed such acts with the wanton cynicism of 
his successors. So great was the impression made on the 
natives by this execution that within a week three caciques 
voluntarily submitted and the Spaniards were able to col- 


lect a tribute of sixteen thousand golden pesos without 
further bloodshed. Four Indians for 16,000 pesos! In 
after years it was not uncommon for the Spaniards to kill 
sixteen Indians for four pesos. So far was Vasco Nunez 
from thinking that he had committed a heinous crime that 
he named the place "Todos los Santos" (All Saints). 

On the 15th of December, loaded down with booty, the 
explorers reached the village of the Pocorosa. This Cacique, 
who was later to make his name dreaded by the Spaniards, 
submitted voluntarily. For about a month Vasco Nunez 
stayed in this place to recoup his followers and to allow the 
stragglers to catch up with him. 

Next to the territory of Pocorosa were the domains of the 
great Cacique Tubanam. Panciaco, the chief who had 
first told Balboa of the Southern Sea, had spoken of Tuba- 
namd as his worst enemy. Vasco Nunez had given his word 
to reduce him. But it was because of the strength and prow- 
ess of this very chief, that Panciaco had said the Spaniards 
would need one thousand men. If ever a man would have 
been justified in repudiating a promise, Balboa would have 
been in this instance. Tubanamd, was the most dreaded 
warrior of the Isthmus. The jungle-worn Spaniards had 
already met and overcome difficulties aplenty. They were 
now near home. To attack meant the risk of all their hard- 
earned booty. For a defeat would have discredited them 
with their allies. But the alternative was a cowardly de- 
tour. Vasco Nunez consulted his men. Seventy of them 
volunteered! Seventy of these "owlde souldiers of Dari- 
ena" volunteered to achieve the work of a thousand. By a 
forced night march and a sudden raid, Vasco Nunez sur- 
prised and captured the mighty chieftain. For several days 
Balboa kept him in suspense, threatening him with the fate 
of Poncra. But at last he relented, accepted a rich ransom 
and made an alliance. 


This brilliant coup, perhaps the most daring of all the 
expedition, was no sooner achieved than Vasco Nunez 
came down with the fever. "And," writes Bancroft, "no 
wonder when we consider the strain on mind and body 
during the past four months. First in every action, bearing 
exposure and privation in common with the poorest soldier, 
with the responsibility of the adventure resting wholly on 
him, he was a fit subject for the fever. But his indomitable 
spirit never forsook him, and, causing himself to be carried 
on a litter, he still directed their movements as they re- 
sumed the march. 

"Weary, ragged, but exultant, the party at length reached 
the village of Comagre." 

In a few days they were met by messengers from Santa 
Maria with the news that two ships had arrived from Santo 
Domingo with reinforcements and provisions. Leaving the 
greater part of his force to rest and follow at their leisure, 
Vasco Nunez hurried on. He reached the colony on Jan- 
uary 19th, 1514, just four months and nineteen days after 
he had started out. 

The ships from Santo Domingo had not brought the Royal 
warrant for his arrest. The King's fifth, together with an 
extra present of two hundred of the largest pearls, were set 
aside. And Balboa composed for his sovereign a glowing 
account of the discovery. 

"And in all his long letter," says Peter Martyr, "there 
is not a single leaf written, which does not contain thanks 
to Almighty God for delivery from perils and preservation 
from many imminent dangers." 

This letter bears the date of March 4th, 1514. It was 
sent a few days later in the care of Pedro de Arbolancha. 
The reason for this long delay is unknown. For Vasco 
Nunez it was a fatal delay. 

Some of the caciques in the Darien valley had revolted, 


but Hurtado with a few men, and the news that Vasco 
Nunez had returned, was able to quiet them. 

Andres Garabitio was also sent out with a few men to 
survey the shortest route between the two oceans. 

These two items speak powerfully of the character of 
Vasco Nunez. At this period, when he was the undisputed 
head of the colony, a Spaniard was safe anywhere in the 
districts which had been visited. The town of Santa Maria 
was thriving. The fields planted by the governor's orders 
were bearing richly. There was no longer danger of famine. 
Over a large territory peace reigned among the natives. A 
peace which they considered cheaply bought with the gold 
the Spaniards desired. 

Whatever were the faults of Vasco Nunez, no Spanish 
king ever had in the New World a more able governor. 
One cannot but regret that his letter to the king had not 
been earlier despatched. If it had arrived in Spain a few 
weeks earlier, he would probably have been confirmed in his 
governorship. The entire Isthmus might have been con- 
quered perhaps also Peru by this man who knew how to 
make himself beloved by the Indians. 

Irving ends his account of the discovery of the South Sea 
with these paragraphs: 

"Thus ended one of the most remarkable expeditions of 
the early discoverers. The intrepidity of Vasco Nunez in 
penetrating, with a handful of men, far into the interior of 
a wild and mountainous country peopled by warlike tribes; 
his skill in managing his band of rough adventurers, stimu- 
lating their valor, enforcing their obedience, and attaching 
their affections, show him to have possessed great qualities 
as a general. We are told that he was always foremost in 
peril, and the last to quit the field. He shared the toils and 
dangers of the meanest of his followers, treating them with 
frank affability; watching, fighting, fasting and laboring 


with them; visiting and consoling such as were sick or in- 
firm, and dividing all his gains with fairness and liberality. 
He was chargeable at times with acts of bloodshed and 
injustice, but it is probable that these were often called for 
as measures of safety and precaution; he certainly offended 
less against humanity than most of the early discoverers; 
and the unbounded amity and confidence reposed in him by 
the natives, when they became intimately acquainted with 
his character, speak strongly in favor of his kind treatment 
of them 

"The character of Vasco Nunez had, in fact, risen with 
his circumstances, and now assumed a nobleness and gran- 
deur from the discovery he had made, and the important 
charge it had devolved upon him. He no longer felt him- 
self a mere soldier of fortune, at the head of a band of 
adventurers, but a great commander conducting an im- 
mortal enterprise. 'Behold,' says Peter Martyr, 'Vasco 
Nunez de Balboa, at once transformed from a rash royster 
to a politic and discreet captain'; and thus it is that men 
are often made by their fortunes; that is to say, their latent 
qualities are brought out, and shaped and strengthened by 
events, and by the necessity of every exertion to cope with 
the greatness of their destiny." 



WHILE Vasco Nunez was accomplishing fame in America, 
things were going very badly for him at the Spanish Court. 

The Bachelor Enciso was making a great din with his 
accusations. But his very energy in reciting his misfor- 
tunes defeated his purpose. While convincing the Court 
that Vasco Nunez was an unmitigated scoundrel, he also 
created the general impression that Castilla del Oro was a 
province as valueless as it was deadly. After the tragic 
fates of Nicuesa and Ojeda, no one petitioned the Throne 
for the post of governor. 

The arrival of Colmenares and Caicedo, the delegates 
from the colony, changed all this. They brought an im- 
pressive ''King's Fifth" of wrought gold and news of a 
Southern Sea. A dozen applicants sprang up, eager to deal 
justice to Balboa and rule the rich province in his stead. 

The Bishop Fonseca, who had befriended Ojeda, was still 
supreme in the Council of the Indies. He secured the post 
for his friend, Don Pedro Arias de Avila. No one connected 
with the administration of Spanish colonial affairs has a 
blacker record than this Bishop Fonseca, and no appoint- 
ment of his was ever worse than Pedrarias, "The Scourge of 
the Indies." 

So great was the interest excited by the stories of Colme- 
nares and Caicedo, that fifty thousand ducats, an immense 
sum for those days, was spent on equipping the expedition. 

A large army had been recruited for the Italian wars, 


and, just at the time when Pedrarias was appointed gov- 
ernor and captain-general of Castilla del Oro, peace was 
established. The soldiers, mustered out, flocked to his 
standard. There were many of the nobility among these 
volunteers men who had heavily mortgaged their estates 
to equip their vassals for the war, and now that the hope 
of Italian booty was withdrawn, turned to the New World. 

Pedrarias collected a fleet of nineteen ships. They were 
authorized to carry twelve hundred men, but so great was 
the pressure of applicants that three hundred more were 
crowded on board. Two thousand volunteers were turned 
away. Among this company mostly gay but bankrupt 
cavaliers were two hardy men who were to win fame 
Hernando de Soto, the discoverer of the Mississippi, and 
Diego de Almagro, who became partner with Pizarro in the 
conquest of Peru. The Bachelor Enciso also joined the 

By royal decree Santa Maria de la Antigua del Darien 
was given a city charter and elevated to metropolitan rank. 
A Franciscan friar, Juan de Quevedo, was appointed Bishop 
of this first episcopal see on the continent. Gaspar de 
Espinosa was sent out as Alcalde Mayor, with especial 
instructions to bring Vasco Nunez to book. 

The armada sailed in the beginning of 1514, but shortly 
ran into a storm which foundered two of the ships and forced 
it to put back to Spain to refit. It was not until the llth 
of April that they got up anchor again 

Only a few days later, Pedro Arbolancha, who had left 
Santa Maria early in March, arrived with the letter from 
Vasco Nunez with its description of finding the Southern 
Sea. This news created as much excitement as the return 
of Columbus, twenty-two years before, from his first voy- 
age. But it came too late. 

"The tidings of this discovery," Irving writes, "made all 


Spain resound with the praises of Vasco Nunez; and from 
being considered a lawless and desperate adventurer, he was 
lauded to the skies as a worthy successor to Columbus. 
The king repented of the harshness of his late measures 
toward him, and ordered the Bishop Fonseca to devise 
some mode of rewarding his transcendent services." 

But Pedrarias had sailed and there was no wireless to 
call him back. 

Before they reached their destination the new governor 
had already committed himself to the course he was to 
follow until his death. He stopped his fleet at some of the 
Caribbean Islands to make slave raids and he hung a sailor 
at the yardarm for not properly saluting an officer. 

Irving gives the following account of the arrival of Pedra- 
rias in his new domains : 

"The town (Sta. Maria de la Antigua) was situated on 
the banks of a river, and contained upward of two hundred 
houses and cabins. Its population amounted to five hun- 
dred and fifteen Europeans, all men, and fifteen hundred 
Indians, male and female. Orchards and gardens had been 
laid out, where European as well as native fruits and vege- 
tables were cultivated, and already gave promise of future 
abundance. Vasco Nunez devised all kinds of means to 
keep up the spirits of the people. On holidays they had their 
favorite national sports and games, and particularly tilting 
matches, of which chivalrous amusement the Spaniards in 
those days were extravagantly fond. Sometimes he grati- 
fied their restless and roving habits by sending them on 
expeditions to various parts of the country, to acquire a 
knowledge of its resources, and to strengthen his sway over 
the natives. He was so successful in securing the amity, or 
exciting the awe of the Indian tribes, that a Spaniard might 
go singly about the land in perfect safety; while his followers 
were zealous in their devotion to him, both from admiration 


of his past exploits and from hopes of soon being led by 
him to new discoveries and conquests. . . . 

"Such were the hearty and well-seasoned veterans that 
were under the sway of Vasco Nunez; and the colony gave 
signs of rising in prosperity under his active and fostering 
management, when, in the month of June, the fleet of Don 
Pedrarias Davila arrived in the Gulf of Uraba. 

"The Spanish cavaliers who accompanied the new gov- 
ernor were eager to get on shore, and to behold the antici- 
pated wonders of the land; but Pedrarias, knowing the 
resolute character of Vasco Nunez, and the devotion of his 
followers, apprehended some difficulty in getting possession 
of the colony. Anchoring, therefore, about a league and a 
half from the settlement, he sent a messenger on shore to 
announce his arrival. The envoy, having heard so much in 
Spain of the prowess and exploits of Vasco Nunez, and the 
riches of Golden Castile, expected, no doubt, to find a 
blustering warrior, maintaining barbaric state in the gov- 
ernment which he had usurped. Great was his astonish- 
ment, therefore, to find this redoubtable hero a plain, unas- 
suming man, clad in a cotton frock and drawers, and hempen 
sandals, directing and aiding the labor of several Indians 
who were thatching a cottage in which he resided. 

"The messenger approached him respectfully, and an- 
nounced the arrival of Don Pedrarias Davila as governor 
of the country. 

"Whatever Vasco Nunez may have felt at this intelli- 
gence, he suppressed his emotions, and answered the mes- 
senger with great discretion: 'Tell Don Pedrarias Davila/ 
said he, 'that he is welcome, and I congratulate him on his 
safe arrival, and am ready, with all who are here, to obey 
his orders.' 

"The little community of rough and daring adventurers 
was in an uproar when they found a new governor had 


arrived. Some of the most zealous adherents of Vasco 
Nunez were disposed to sally forth, sword in hand, and repel 
the intruder; but they were restrained by their more con- 
siderate chieftain, who prepared to receive the new governor 
with all due submission. 

"Pedrarias disembarked on the thirtieth of June, accom- 
panied by his heroic wife, Donna Isabella, who, according 
to Old Peter Martyr, had sustained the roarings and rages 
of the ocean with no less stout courage than either her hus- 
band or the mariners who had been brought up among the 
surges of the sea. 

"Pedrarias set out for the embryo city at the head of 
two thousand men, all well armed. He led his wife by the 
hand, and on the other side of him was the Bishop of Darien 
in his robes; while a brilliant train of youthful cavaliers, in 
glittering armor and brocade, formed a kind of body-guard. 

"All this pomp and splendor formed a striking contrast 
with the humble state of Vasco Nunez, who came forth 
unarmed, in simple attire, accompanied by his counsellors 
and a handful of the 'old soldiers of Darien/ scarred and 
battered, and grown half wild in Indian warfare, but without 
weapons, and in garments much the worse for wear. 

"Vasco Nunez saluted Don Pedrarias Davila, with pro- 
found reverence, and promised him implicit obedience, both 
in his own name and in the name of the community. Hav- 
ing entered the town, he conducted his distinguished guests 
to his straw-thatched habitation, where he had caused a 
repast to be prepared of such cheer as his means afforded, 
consisting of roots and fruits, maize and cassava bread, with 
no other beverage than water from the river; a sorry palace 
and a meagre banquet in the eyes of the gay cavaliers, who 
had anticipated far other things from the usurper of Golden 
Castile. Vasco Nunez, however, acquitted himself in his 
humble wigwam with the courtesy and hospitality of a 


prince, and showed that the dignity of an entertainment 
depends more upon the giver than the feast. In the mean- 
time a plentiful supply of European provisions was landed 
from the fleet, and a temporary abundance was diffused 
through the colony." 

But this love feast was of short duration. As soon as 
Pedrarias had won all the information he could from Vasco 
Nunez by fair means, he published his orders, which stripped 
the discoverer of all his honors, and ordered his trial. 

Espinosa, the judge, had fallen entirely under the influ- 
ence of the Bishop Quevedo. And Vasco Nunez, who was 
a shrewd judge of men, had taken the churchman's measure 
at a glance. He had taken so quick and keen an interest 
in the prelate's temporal affairs that the good bishop felt 
that the welfare of the diocese was wrapt up in the pros- 
perity of Balboa. To the great disgust of the governor, 
Vasco Nunez was triumphantly acquitted of all criminal 

Pedrarias was in a perplexing dilemma. To allow so 
popular a leader freedom of action in the colony was to 
invite the fate of Enciso and Nicuesa. To send him home 
to Spain would be to send him to a triumph from which he 
would doubtless return with a superseding commission. 
The Bachelor Enciso came to his rescue with a string of 
civil suits; by carefully nursing them the "law's delays" 
were as infamous then as now the governor could keep his 
rival hopelessly involved in litigation. 

Undoubtedly the Bachelor enjoyed the situation. And 
undoubtedly Vasco Nunez in the long days which followed, 
days and weeks and months of inaction, when he had to sit 
quiet and watch the fabric of his accomplishments torn to 
shreds, his plans wrecked, his friends despoiled, his treaties 
violated repented grievously of his former mistreatment of 


There were other men who enjoyed his eclipse. Every 
one who had a private grudge against him, hastened to make 
friends with Pedrarias. Not the least of these was Fran- 
sico Pizarro. Vasco Nunez had once rebuked him for cow- 
ardice in leaving a wounded comrade on the field of battle. 
Pizarro became a trusted lieutenant of the new governor. 

But although the great work of Balboa could be wrecked 
by mean-spirited, less able men, it could not be done with- 
out cost. Vasco Nunez had made the colony self-supporting. 
The "owlde souldiers of Dariena," who could merrily make 
their boast that they had observed a longer and sharper 
lenten fast than the Pope enjoined, "since for the space of 
four years, their food had been herbs and fruits, with now 
and then fish and very seldom flesh, " could live comfortably 
on the produce of their farms. The sudden influx of fifteen 
hundred raw recruits from Spain was a strain the little 
colony could have borne only with great foresight and self- 
restraint. These qualities the enemies of Balboa lacked. 
Irving explains the disaster which followed in these para- 
graphs : 

"It is not a matter of surprise that a situation of this 
kind, in a tropical climate, should be fatal to the health of 
Europeans. Many who had recently arrived were swept off 
speedily; Pedrarias himself fell sick, and was removed, with 
most of his people, to a healthier spot on the river Corobari ; 
the malady, however, continued to increase. The provisions 
brought out in the ships had been partly damaged by the sea 
and the residue grew scanty, and the people were put upon 
short allowance; the debility thus produced increased the 
ravages of disease; at length the provisions were exhausted, 
and the horrors of absolute famine ensued. 

"Every one was more or less affected by these calamities; 
even the veterans of the colony quailed beneath them; but 
to none were they more fatal than to the crowd of youthful 


cavaliers who had once glittered so gayly about the streets 
of Seville, and had come out to the New World elated with 
the most sanguine expectations. From the very moment 
of their landing, they had been disheartened at the savage 
scenes around them, and disgusted with the squalid life 
they were doomed to lead. They shrunk with disdain from 
the labors with which alone wealth was to be procured in 
this land of gold and pearls, and were impatient of the hum- 
ble exertions necessary for the maintenance of existence. 
As the famine increased, their case became desperate; for 
they were unable to help themselves, and their rank and dig- 
nity commanded neither deference nor aid at a time when 
common misery made every one selfish. Many of them, 
who had mortgaged estates in Spain to fit themselves out 
sumptuously for their Italian campaign, now perished for 
lack of food. Some would be seen bartering a robe of crim- 
son silk, or some garment of rich brocade, for a pound of 
Indian bread or European biscuit; others sought to satisfy 
the cravings of hunger with the herbs and roots of the field, 
and one of the principal cavaliers absolutely expired of hun- 
ger in the public streets. 

"In this wretched way, and in the short space of one 
month, perished seven hundred of the little army of youth- 
ful and buoyant spirits who had embarked with Pedrarias. 
The bodies of some remained for a day or two without 
sepulchre, their friends not having sufficient strength to 
bury them. Unable to remedy the evil, Pedrarias gave 
permission to his men to flee from it. A ship-load of starv- 
ing adventurers departed for Cuba, where some of them 
joined the standard of Diego Velasquez, who was colonizing 
that island; others made their way back to Spain, where 
they arrived broken in health, in spirits, and in fortune." 

While this blight was depopulating the once prosperous 
town of Santa Maria, affairs were going a thousand times 


worse in the young empire which Vasco Nunez, now a help- 
less prisoner, had built up with so much labor and skill. 

The king had ordered that a road should be built across 
the Isthmus, garrisons established at important places and 
a town created on the new ocean. 

An expedition of four hundred men under Juan de Ayora 
was sent out on this mission. He began by sacking the 
villages of the friendly Indians. The historian Oviedo, who 
had come out in the retinue of Pedrarias, writes: 

"The caciques were tortured to make them disclose their 
gold. Some they roasted, others they threw to the dogs, 
others were hanged. . . . This infernal hunt lasted 
several months." 

Hurtado, a former friend of Balboa's, was sent out to 
support Ayora. Anxious to win the favor of Pedrarias, 
he tried to excel in brutality. Returning from his raid he 
stopped at the village of Careta and asked for men to carry 
in his spoil. When he arrived at Santa Maria, he made 
slaves of them, giving six to the governor, six to the bishop, 
four to the judge Espinosa, and selling the rest for his pri- 
vate profit. In this manner the Spaniards under Pedrarias 
violated the alliances of Balboa and sowed the whirlwind. 

Ayora, having built and garrisoned a fort, called Santa 
Crux, up the coast in the territory of the Cacique Pocorosa, 
started across the Isthmus on an orgy of rapine. Every- 
where the natives met him hospitably as a friend of Vasco 
Nunez and everywhere they were massacred. He founded 
a second garrison in the domain of Tubanamd, and, without 
having reached the ocean, returned to Santa Maria, loaded 
down with slaves and booty. But he was not content with 
robbing the natives; he was not willing to divide his spoils 
with the colony or with the king. His men seized a ship 
in the harbor and made off with their loot. Ayora had 
powerful friends in Spain and was never punished. 


Peter Martyr writes of him: "In all the turmoyls and 
tragicall affayres of the Ocean, nothing has no muche dis- 
pleased me, as the couetousnesse of this man, who hath so 
disturbed the pacified mindes of the kinges." 

"If Juan de Ayora had been punished for his many 
injuries to the peaceable caciques," Balboa wrote to the 
king, "the other captains would not have dared to commit 
like excesses." 

But Pedrarias, instead of trying to punish Ayora, is said 
to have profited not only from his cruelties, but also from 
his embezzlement of the King's fifth. 

All the raids were not so successful. Francisco Becerra, 
after bringing in 7,000 pesos of gold and one hundred slaves, 
was sent with 180 men to reduce the Cenu tribes on the 
other side of the Gulf. Many Spaniards had died from their 
poisoned arrows and Becerra vowed that he would extermi- 
nate them. But he fell stupidly into an ambush and only 
a native slave boy escaped to bring the news to Santa Maria. 

The garrison which Ayora had established at Santa Cruz 
by their deviltry drove the Indians of their neighborhood 
into a revolt of desperation. The Cacique Pocorosa led the 
attack. Only five of the Spaniards escaped by boat. The 
Indians melted gold and poured it down the throats of their 

"Eat gold, you Christians," they cried. "Eat it. Have 
your fill of gold." 

In March, 1515, Gonzalo de Badajoz started out with 
130 men. They went up the coast as far as Nombre de 
Dios; they could find no marks of Nicuesa's colony, so thor- 
oughly had the jungle swallowed up the ruins. He sent 
back booty, estimated by Bancroft at $500,000 of our cur- 
rency. He adds: "In addition to gold there were always 
women for baptism, lust, and slavery, and so the Christians 
were happy." 


Badajoz then crossed the Isthmus and by treachery and 
murder collected 100,000 castellanos more. But again the 
Indians, driven to desperation this time in the territory 
of the Cacique Parita, to the west of Panama combined 
against the invaders. In a series of severe fights seventy of 
the Spaniards were killed. The remainder, forced to aban- 
don their booty, escaped to the island of Toboga. After 
some weeks of rest in this place they returned to the main- 
land and fought their way back to Santa Maria. 

In June, Vasco Nunez temporarily escaped from the law- 
yers and accompanied an expedition of two hundred men 
up the Darien River in search of the mythical Golden Tem- 
ple of Dabaiba. The Indians attacked them in canoes and 
diving overboard upset the boats of the Spaniards. Half 
of them were drowned in the swift current. Balboa brought 
back the remnant and was again entangled by litiga- 

What Vasco Nunez thought of lawyers is vigorously ex- 
pressed in one of his letters to the king. 

"Most powerful sire, there is one great favor that I pray 
your royal highness to do me, since it is of greatest import- 
ance to your service. It is for your royal highness to issue 
an order that no bachiller of laws or anything unless it be of 
medicine, shall come to these parts of Tierra Firme . . . 
because no bachiller ever comes hither who is not a devil, 
and they all live like devils, and not only are they them- 
selves bad, but they make others bad." 

In November, 1515, Antonio Tello de Gutzman was sent 
out to complete the work of Ayora. He found the garrison 
of Tubanamd closely besieged and almost overcome by 
famine. This expedition pushed westward into new terri- 
tory. Crossing the Rio Chepo, they came to the place 
which the Indians called Panamd "Abounding in fish." 
Albrites led a detachment through territory which is now 


the Canal Zone to the Chagres River. He boasted that he 
had gathered 1,200 golden pesos without bloodshed. Return- 
ing to the Caribbean Sea, the expedition had to fight for 
every step. Pocorosa, the chief who had overthrown the 
garrison of Santa Crux, was on the warpath. He used as 
his banner a Spanish shirt, soaked in Spanish blood. The 
days when the natives had thought Balboa was invincible 
had passed. As they discovered the villainy of the white 
men they had discovered their vulnerability. Gutzman 
lost many men on the route, but managed to keep a tight 
hold on his booty and slaves. 

Although the Bishop Fonseca had been able all this time 
to block any official preferment for Balboa, news of the 
enthusiasm with which he was regarded in Spain began to 
reach Darien. And Pedrarias, fearing that his rival might 
be made governor of the Southern Seas, decided to stake 
out the claim ahead of him. He dispatched his cousin, 
Gaspar de Morales, and Pizarro to take possession in his 
name. They found the Caciques Chiapes and Tumaco as 
yet undespoiled and friendly. Leaving a garrison on the 
mainland under Penalosa, they embarked in canoes furn- 
ished by the friendly natives for the Pearl Islands. After a 
fierce fight they subdued the cacique, and, following Bal- 
boa's policy, made friends with him. From him Pizarro 
heard new and more precise stories of the great empire of 
the Incas. They extracted a heavy tribute from their host 
as a price of peace. It contained a pearl which Vasco 
Nunes described in a letter to the king as "very perfect, 
without a scratch or stain, and of a very pretty color, and 
lustre and make; which in truth is a jewel well worthy of 
presentation to your Majesty, more particularly as coming 
from these parts." It weighed 31 carats and Vasco Nunez, 
after this broad hint as to what would have happened to it 
if he had been in power, adds, "It was put up at auction 


and sold for 1,200 pesos del oro to a merchant and finally 
fell into the hands of the Governor." 

Returning to the mainland, Morales and Pizarro found 
the Indians in war-paint. Penalosa and his men had been 
spending their time outraging the native women. The two 
generals summoned a council of their allies. Eighteen 
caciques, remembering the justice of Vasco Nunez and 
expecting to have their wrongs righted, came in. Morales 
and Pizarro threw them to the dogs. They then spread 
fire and sword through the countryside. The last of the 
twenty-five tribes which Balboa had bound to him by 
friendly alliances were turned into bitter enemies. In one 
village the Spaniards slaughtered seven hundred, mostly 
women and children, within an hour. But once more the 
white men were to learn that the Indians when driven to 
desperation become formidable. The Cacique of Biru, whose 
territory lay to the east of the Gulf, administered a stinging 
defeat. Morales and Pizarro were forced into a retreat, 
which soon became a rout. They even had to murder most 
of the captives they had taken for slaves. At last, the wreck 
of their expedition, clinging to their pearls, straggled into 
Santa Maria. 

"Be it known to your Majesty," Balboa wrote, "that dur- 
ing this excursion was perpetrated the greatest cruelty ever 
heard of in Arabian or Christian country, in any genera- 
tion. And this it is. This captain and the surviving 
Christians while on this journey took nearly one hundred 
Indians of both sexes, mostly women and children, fastened 
with chains and afterwards ordered them to be decapitated 
and scalped." 

"Being cousin and servant of the Governor," Oviedo re- 
marks, Morales suffered "neither punishment nor pain." 

Towards the end of 1515, Pedrarias personally led an 
expedition against the Cenu. A few women and children 


were massacred and then the soldiers, afraid of the poisoned 
arrows, insisted on abandoning the campaign. Pedrarias 
returned to the Isthmus and started a town at Acla, near the 
present Caledonia Bay. He then fell sick of a fever and re- 
turned to Santa Maria, leaving Espinosa, the Alcalde Mayor, 
in charge of the new town. 

The judge, having found that litigation was not as profit- 
able as he had hoped, decided to lay aside his law books and 
take up the sword. He recounts his exploits in one of the 
most curious documents which have come down to us from 
those times. 

"Relacion hecha por Caspar de Espinosa, alcalde mayor 
de Castilla del Oro, dada a Pedrarias de Avila, lugar terri- 
ente general de aquellos provincias, de todo loque le se cedo 
en la entrada que hizo en ellos, de orden de Pedrdrias." 

In verbose legal phraseology he tells of his adventures; 
he gives great space to the proceedings of his drum-head 
court martial. He did everything with due deference to 
the law. He never threw any Indian to the dogs without 
having first enacted a statute which justified the execution. 
With astounding naivete" he tells of his own villainy, boasts 
of treachery and plumes himself over the refinements of tor- 
ture which he devised. With unconscious humor he notes 
down the important part played in the expedition by his 

Espinosa was the first man to ride across the Isthmus. 
His home-sick jackass impressed the natives immensely. 
When he brayed they fell on their faces in awe. Espinosa 
who had as keen an eye for business as any pirate who ever 
visited those parts told the Indians that this four-foot 
demon was asking for gold. The frightened people gave 
up their last ornaments dug up the graves of their ances- 
tors to appease him. 

Espinosa, also, boasts of having built the first Christian 

Copyright by Underwood & Undenuood. 

Native Girls Pounding Rice. 


church on the Pacific, near Chame* Point. In the midst of 
their worst deviltry they paused now and then to worship 

From this place Barthome" Hurtado, with a hundred men, 
coasted westward in native canoes as far as the Gulf of 
Nicaya, within the present borders of Costa Rica. As his 
force was small and he was far from assistance, he treated 
the natives with respect and was everywhere hospitably 

On his return, early in 1517, he found Espinosa building 
a fort at Panama. The historian Herrera estimates that the 
spoil collected on this trip in which of course is included 
the tribute the Indians paid to quiet the braying of the 
jackass amounted to 80,000 pesos del oro and 2,000 slaves. 

"During Espinosa's absence in the south," Bancroft 
writes, "affairs at Antigua were exceptionally dull. The 
illness of the governor, unfortunately, was not fatal." 

Every boat sailing for Spain carried a letter from Vasco 
Nunez to the king, telling of all the governor's misdeeds 
it was a long list and how surely the colony was going to 
the dogs. As long as possible the Bishop of Fonseca pre- 
vented the king from rewarding Balboa, and when at last 
he could delay action no longer, he still managed to protect 
his creature, Pedrarias. 

Early in 1515 royal despatches arrived in Santa Maria 
which created Vasco Nunez "Captain General of the Prov- 
inces of Coiba (Careta) and Panama", and Adelantado of 
the Southern Sea" an empty honor, as the Governor of 
Castilla del Oro would still be his superior. These honors 
only made Pedrarias more venomous. He had the audacity 
to suppress them. How long he held up the royal order it 
is now impossible to determine. But at last the Bishop of 
Darien, Quevedo, heard of them and forced their publica- 


Angrier than ever, Pedrarias found one excuse after an- 
other to keep Vasco Nunez inactive. He would not even 
give the new Captain-general permission to visit his prov- 
inces. The Bishop Quevedo came once more to the rescue. 
He impressed on the old man the impossibility of forever 
preserving this deadlock. Vasco Nunez was too popular to 
be forever kept in the shade. Sooner or later the king would 
interfere and it could only be to the governor's disadvantage, 
very probably to his disgrace. How much better to have 
this powerful and active man for a friend! Why not make 
a son-in-law of him? Pedrarias had several daughters. 
After much urging from the bishop, the old governor, with 
very ill grace we may be sure, assented to this alliance. 
What Balboa thought of it, we can only guess. It offered 
him a chance at action. At worst the daughter of Pedrarias 
was a long way off. It would be months before she could 

Towards the middle of 1516, this peace patched up with 
Pedrarias, we find Vasco Nunez at Acla, preparing an expe- 
dition to seek further into the mystery of the Southern Sea. 
The town founded by Pedrarias had been destroyed by the 
Indians. Balboa had to rebuild it, for it was his plan to 
build ships there and transport them across the Isthmus in 
sections. It was an undertaking worthy of his great genius. 
If it had been a daring enterprise to cross to the Pacific the 
first time, it was indeed desperate, now that all the tribes 
were implacably hostile, to try to transport so large a 

"No living man in all the Indies/' Herrera wrote, "dared 
attempt such an enterprise, or would have succeeded at it, 
save Vasco Nunez de Balboa." 

Early in 1517 he was ready to start. Within six months 
he had rebuilt the town, established ship-yards and put 
together four brigantines. But if we can admire the cour- 


age of the man in conceiving and executing so great a plan, 
we cannot this time follow Vasco Nunez across the Isthmus 
with the same hearty sympathy. It is interesting to specu- 
late on how different a manner the enterprise would have 
been carried through, if the satelites of Pedrarias had not 
made all peaceful intercourse with the natives impossible. 
It is possible to excuse Balboa much under the circum- 
stances but this expedition left a long trail of skeletons. 
The heavy carrying was done by natives, no longer allies, 
but slaves. "More than 500 Indians perished in the trans- 
portation of these ships," the Bishop of Darien reported. 
Las Casas, probably much nearer the truth, puts the number 
at 2,000. 

Saddest of all, this hecatomb was useless. When the 
Spaniards tried to put their ships together on the Pacific 
side, they found that the timbers were honeycombed with 
borings of the ship worm. 

It was necessary to begin all over again. New ship-yards 
had to be built on an estuary of the Gulf of San Miguel. 
Instead of being the honored guests of the natives, as Bal- 
boa's men had been on the first expedition, they had to 
protect themselves with stockades and were smitten with 
famine in this war-swept land. 

"In all labors," wrote Las Casas, "Vasco Nunez took the 
foremost part, working with his own hands and giving aid 
and encouragement to all." Later, with his ever-ready 
sympathy for the oppressed, the good monk adds: "When 
Vasco Nunez himself was forced to feed on roots, it may well 
be imagined to what extremity the six hundred Indian cap- 
tives were reduced." 

But at last, conquering all hardships and difficulties, his 
hands red with the blood of the natives, Balboa was able to 
launch two brigantines and sail out on the unknown sea he 
had discovered. He made his headquarters on the Isla 


Rica, as he had christened the largest of the Pearl group. 
There he built two more brigantines and with his little fleet 
of four he started out to find and conquer the rich land to 
the south. Once more it must have seemed that the Fates 
were smiling. He had a royal commission to govern all the 
nations he might discover on this ocean. There was yet 
a chance to win and justly rule a great vice-royalty, free 
from the murderous interference of men like his prospective 

But these first navigators of this unknown sea had not 
learned its currents, its seasons and prevailing winds. Vasco 
Nunez started on this expedition at the worst time of year. 
After beating about for many days and making not more 
than twenty leagues beyond the Gulf of San Miguel, he was 
forced by adverse winds to put back to the Isla Rica. At 
his headquarters he found messengers with a rumor that a 
new governor had been appointed for Castillo del Oro in 
place of Pedrarias. 

It is impossible to say what Vasco Nunez thought of the 
new situation. It seems hardly credible that the idea of 
refusing obedience to anyone who should try to stop him 
would not have come to one who had waited so long for an 
opportunity. How far he harbored the idea, how far he 
may have discussed the possibility with trusted friends, we 
do not know. But he does not seem to have distrusted 
Pedrarias nor to have feared his interference. 

He needed provisions, and he sent some of his men over 
to Santa Maria with instructions to approach the village 
stealthily; if they found Pedrarias still in power they were 
to enter boldly and ask for what was needed. If, however, 
they found a new governor had arrived, they were to find 
out as much as they could about his intentions without let- 
ting him know of their presence and return to Isla Rica 
without having entered the town. This would give Vasco 


Nunez the chance, if the new governor was hostile, to slip 
anchor and make a bold dash for fame before an order for 
his recall could reach him. 

It is of course impossible to measure the intentions of a 
man so long dead, but there has been preserved no evidence 
to show that Vasco Nunez had meditated treason against 

But he had made many enemies. It is probable that 
Pizarro and many of his old comrades who had deserted 
him to join the faction of Pedrarias were mightily disturbed 
at the reconciliation which the Bishop of Darien had ef- 
fected. And besides these political enemies there were 
those who harbored a personal grudge. One of the men 
whom Vasco Nunez sent over on this mission to Santa 
Maria was one of these. He had desired the beautiful 
daughter of Careta, who was Balboa's mistress. She had 
complained of his advances and the man had been warned 
to desist. This jealous wretch concocted a story of a deep 
and dark conspiracy to throw off allegiance from king and 
governor and establish an independent empire in the South- 
ern Sea. He based his accusation on some scraps of conver- 
sation which a sentry before Balboa's door had overheard 
one night, when a shower had given him excuse to crowd 
close to the wattel wall and eavesdrop. 

Arrived in Santa Maria, finding Pedrarias still in power, 
this man retailed his suspicions to the enemies of Vasco 
Nunez. The informer was afraid to make an open accusa- 
tion, so the gang arranged to have him arrested and forced 
to " confess." The story was infected with just those drops 
of venom most likely to enrage Pedrarias to wound his 
pride. It was said that Balboa openly made sport of him 
and his daughter. His love for his Indian bride was said 
to be his motive for cutting loose from his allegiance. Noth- 
ing which they could think of to stir the old man's anger 


did they neglect. Suspicious, as are all tyrants, he was not 
hard to convince. Age seemed to increase the viciousness 
of Pedrarias. So brutal and miserly had he become that 
the Bishop of Darien, he of the itching palm, had reached 
the end of his large tolerance and had gone to Spain to lay 
complaints before the throne. 

Pedrarias sent a loving letter to his dear son-in-law, 
saying that he needed his counsel in some grave matters 
and begging him to come to Santa Maria, before sailing. 
That Vasco Nunez fell into the trap and came, is strong 
evidence that his conscience was clear of any meditated 
treachery to the old man. As he came within sight of 
Acla, he was met by a body of soldiers under Francisco 
Pizarro and put under arrest. For a few days the comedy 
of a trial was performed in Acla and then a decree of death 
against Balboa and three of his friends cleared the stage for 

"It was a day of gloom and horror at Acla," Irving wrote, 
"when Vasco Nunez and his companions were led forth to 
execution. The populace were moved to tears at the un- 
happy fate of a man, whose gallant deeds had excited their 
admiration, and whose generous qualities had won their 
hearts. Most of them regarded him as the victim of a 
jealous tyrant; and even those who thought him guilty, 
saw something brave and brilliant in the very crime im- 
puted to him. Such, however, was the general dread in- 
spired by the severe measures of Pedrarias, that no one 
dared to lift up his voice, either in murmur or remonstrance. 

"The public crier walked before Vasco Nunez, proclaim- 
ing: 'This is the punishment inflicted by command of the 
king and his lieutenant, Don Pedrarias Davila, on this man 
as a traitor and an usurper of the territories of the crown.' 

"When Vasco Nunez heard these words, he exclaimed 
indignantly, 'It is false! Never did such a crime enter my 


mind. I have ever served my king with truth and loyalty, 
and sought to augment his dominions.' 

" These words were of no avail in his extremity, but they 
were fully believed by the populace. 

"The execution took place in the public square of Acla; 
and we are assured by the historian Oviedo, who was in the 
colony at the time, that the cruel Pedrarias was a secret 
witness of the bloody spectacle; which he contemplated 
from between the reeds of the wall of a house about twelve 
paces from the scaffold! 

"Vasco Nunez was the first to suffer death. Having con- 
fessed himself and partaken of the sacrament, he ascended 
the scaffold with a firm step and a calm and manly de- 
meanor; and, laying his head upon the block, it was severed 
in an instant from his body. Three of his officers, Valderra- 
bona, Botello, and Hernan Munos, were in like manner 
brought one by one to the block, and the day had nearly 
expired before the last of them was executed." 

Peter Martyr philosophically remarks: "And this is the 
rewarde wherewith the blynde goddesse oftentymes recom- 
penseth such as haue suteyned great trauayls and daungiours 
to bee hyghly in her fauoure." 

The rest of the story of Don Pedro Arias de Avila is, like 
what has gone before, a record of treacherous villainy and 
inhuman cruelties. No sooner was Vasco Nunez out of the 
way than he committed the identical crime for which his 
victim had been unjustly executed. Knowing that in the 
face of the accusation being brought against him by Oviedo, 
Las Casas and Quevedo, his friend the bishop, Fonseca, 
could not protect him much longer, he abandoned the north 
coast of the Isthmus and tried to establish himself on the 
South Sea. He made his headquarters at Panama, which 
was rapidly becoming a centre of population. 

In May, 1520, Lope de Sosa, the man sent out to replace 


him, arrived in the harbor of Santa Maria, but died before 
landing. This gave Pedrarias a new lease of power. 

On September 15, 1521, Panama was given a royal charter 
and the bishopric was transferred from Santa Maria. The 
Fray Vincente de Peraza, the second Bishop of Panama, was 
poisoned by Pedrarias very shortly after his arrival. But as 
things began to get too hot for him in the "muy Noble y 
muy Leal Ciudad de Panama," Pedrarias changed his base 
to Nicaragua. When Pedro de los Rios, the next governor, 
arrived in Panama on July 30th, 1526, the bird had flown. 

Fortunately we do not have to follow his bloody career 
after he left the Isthmus. He came back once in 1527 and 
again we hear of him in a characteristic manner. The 
Council of Panama gave him permission to open a slave- 
market in that city to dispose of the captives he was making 
in Nicaragua. 

He died in July, 1530 unhung. 



IT has been said that the Isthmus is more renowned for 
those who have crossed it than for those who have lived 
there. Certainly its greatest claim for fame is that it was 
the outfitting station for the discovery and conquest of Peru. 
No other event so deeply affected its history. 

Vasco Nunez had dreamed of this achievement. His 
ambition had been cheated by the axe of Pedrarias. But 
his death only postponed the exploration of the Southern Sea 
only transferred to less worthy hands the great task of 

Very shortly after establishing himself on the Pacific, 
Pedrarias sent out an expedition under the command of a 
cavalier named Pascual de Andagoya. But this officer fell 
sick and was forced to return before he had passed the twenty 
league mark of exploration fixed by Balboa. 

Peru existed in the minds of men only as a rumor. The 
Spaniards had received just as glowing accounts from the 
natives of the Golden Temple of Dabaiba. It was as unreal 
an El Dorado as was Ponce* de Leon's "Fountain of Perpetual 
Youth." The Spaniards were decidedly sick of such ven- 
tures. The Aurea Chersoneus which Columbus had de- 
scribed so alluringly had led them to the death trap of 
Nombre de Dios. This "Castilla del Oro" had proven to 
be built as much of hardships, famines and fevers, as of gold. 
There was doubtless many a colonist of Panama, eking out 
a meagre living from their Indian slaves they died with 



such discouraging rapidity who felt that they would have 
been much better off at home. Mexico had not yet been dis- 
covered. Prescott expresses surprise that the southern 
explorations were so long delayed. It seems more wonder- 
ful to me that they were attempted. Nothing but the un- 
conquerable romance of the age could have kept alive faith 
in cities of gold. 

However, Francisco Pizarro kept in mind the stories he 
had heard from the Cacique of the Pearl Islands, and when 
in 1524 the news of the rich kingdom subdued by Cortez 
reached Panama, he was able to draw two of the colonists 
into his scheme. Prescott gives the following characteriza- 
tion of the three men: 

"On the removal of the seat of government across the 
Isthmus to Panama, Pizarro accompanied Pedrarias, and 
his name became conspicuous among the cavaliers who 
extended the line of conquest to the north, over the martial 
tribes of Veragua. But all these expeditions, whatever glory 
they may have brought him, were productive of very little 
gold; and at the age of fifty, the captain Pizarro found him- 
self in possession only of a tract of unhealthy land in the 
neighborhood of the capital, and of such repartimientos of the 
natives as were deemed suited to his military services. The 
New World was a lottery, where the great prizes were so 
few that the odds were much against the player; yet in the 
game he was content to stake health, fortune, and too often, 
his fair fame. 

"There is no evidence that Pizarro showed any particular 
alacrity in the cause. Nor were his own funds such as to 
warrant any expectation of success without great assistance 
from others. He found this in two individuals of the colony, 
who took too important a part in the subsequent transactions 
not to be particularly noticed. 

"One of them, Diego de Almagro, was a soldier of fortune, 


somewhat older, it seems probable, than Pizarro; though 
little is known of his birth, and even the place of it is dis- 
puted. . . . Few particulars are known of him till the 
present period of our history; for he was one of those whom 
the working of turbulent times first throws upon the surface, 
less fortunate, perhaps, than if left in their original obscurity. 
In his military career, Almagro had earned the reputation 
of a gallant soldier. He was frank and liberal in his disposi- 
tion, somewhat hasty and ungovernable in his passions, but 
like men of a sanguine temperament, after the first sallies 
had passed away, not difficult to be appeased. . . . 

"The other member of the confederacy was Hernando de 
Luque, a Spanish ecclesiastic, who exercised the functions 
of vicar at Panama, and had formerly filled the office of 
schoolmaster in the Cathedral of Darien. He seems to have 
been a man of singular prudence and knowledge of the world; 
and by his respectable qualities had acquired considerable 
influence in the little community to which he belonged, as 
well as the control of funds, which made his cooperation 
essential to the success of the present enterprise. . . . 

"The associates found no difficulty in obtaining the con- 
sent of the governor to their undertaking. . . . He was 
probably not displeased that the burden of the enterprise 
should be borne by others, so long as a good share of the 
profits went into his own coffers. This he did not overlook 
in his stipulations." 

There is some dispute as to what bargain Pedrarias drove 
with the three adventurers, but the weight of evidence is 
that he held them up for one fourth of the profits in con- 
sideration of his passive consent. It is also generally agreed 
that Father Luque was acting in the matter as agent for 
Gaspar de Espinosa, the Alcade Mayor, who had won fame 
by riding an ass and by his barbaric cruelties. 

No sooner had these preliminary arrangements been com- 


pleted than the three confederates began operations. With 
the money furnished by Luque they bought and equipped 
two small ships. One of them was the brigantine which 
Vasco Nunez had built for the same undertaking. They had 
much difficulty in enlisting men for the expedition. So 
little sympathy had the people of Panama for the Peruvian 
venture that they made the vicar the butt of a rather weak 
pun, calling him "Padre Luque o loco." "Loco" being 
the Spanish word for madman. But at length they mustered 
a hundred men the refuse of the colony to go with 
Pizarro on the first ship. 

It was not necessary to follow the well-known adventures 
of Pizarro in detail, but rather to recount the part which 
Panama played in the great adventure. It was a decidedly 
sorry part. What little help the colony gave to the enter- 
prise was given grudgingly. Almagro could only find seventy 
men willing to sail on the supporting expedition. 

Pizarro and Almagro soon reached the end of their re- 
sources and turned back. To return to Panama meant the 
disbanding of the little force they had already collected. 
So Almagro went back alone to see if he could make some 
satisfactory arrangements with the governor. But he found 
Pedrarias suddenly turned hostile to the scheme. He was 
himself fitting out an expedition for a venture in Nicaragua 
and at first he would not countenance any further recruiting 
for the south. In fact so little did he think of the Peruvian 
enterprise that, needing ready money for his own plans, 
he sold out his original interest in the combine for one 
thousand pesos in gold. The old miser was so pleased with 
this sharp bargain that he relented and removed his pro- 
hibition on recruiting. Pizarro now came to Panama and 
the three partners drew up the famous contract of which 
Prescott gives this description : 

"The instrument, after invoking in the most solemn 


manner the names of the Holy Trinity and our Lady the 
Blessed Virgin, sets forth, that whereas the parties have full 
authority to discover and subdue the countries and provinces 
lying south of the Gulf, belonging to the empire of Peru, and 
as Fernando de Luque had advanced the funds for the en- 
terprise in bars of gold of the value of twenty thousand 
pesos, they mutually bind themselves to divide equally among 
them the whole of the conquered territory. . . . 

"The two captains solemnly engage to devote themselves 
exclusively to the present undertaking until it is accom- 
plished; . . . 

"The commanders, Pizarro and Almagro, made oath, in 
the name of God and the Holy Evangelists, sacredly to keep 
this covenant, swearing it on the missal, on which they 
traced with their own hands the sacred emblem of the cross. 
To give still greater efficacy to the compact, Father Luque 
administered the sacrament to the parties, dividing the 
consecrated wafer into three portions, of which each one of 
them partook; while the bystanders, says an historian, were 
affected to tears by this spectacle of the solemn ceremonial 
with which these men voluntarily devoted themselves to a 
sacrifice that seemed little short of insanity. 

"The instrument, which was dated March 10, 1526, was 
subscribed by Luque, and attested by three respectable 
citizens of Panama, one of whom signed on behalf of Pizarro, 
and the other for Almagro; since neither of these parties, 
according to the avowal of the instrument, was able to sub- 
scribe his own name. 

"Such was the singular compact by which three obscure 
individuals coolly carved out and partitioned among them- 
selves an empire, of whose extent, power, and resources, of 
whose situation, of whose existence, even, they had no sure 
or precise knowledge. The positive and unhesitating man- 
ner in which they speak of the grandeur of this empire, of 


its stores of wealth, . . . forms a striking contrast with 
the general scepticism and indifference manifested by nearly 
every other person, high and low, in the community of 

Two larger vessels were now procured and a poster put up 
which asked for volunteers for the expedition. But the idea 
was no more popular among the sceptical citizens of Panama 
than it had been at first. With the most lurid promises they 
were only able to raise their force to one hundred and sixty 
men. This time they sailed directly south to the Rio de 
San Juan, the limit of Almagro's first voyage. Here they 
landed, and although yet far from the domains of the Inca, 
they found the natives wearing gold ornaments and secured 
a large booty. Pizarro, with most of the men, started to 
explore the interior, Bartholome Ruiz, their pilot, cruised 
south in the larger boat and Almagro returned to Panama 
with the booty, to secure if possible more recruits. 

At Panama he found a new governor, Don Pedro de los 
Rios. Pedrarias, taking with him everything which was 
not nailed down, had emigrated to Nicaragua, where he 
would be a little further removed from royal justice. De los 
Rios had been especially instructed to push forward the 
exploration of the Southern Sea, so he gave Almagro every 
encouragement. Eighty men who had come out in the 
retinue of the new governor volunteered to accompany him. 
The older and more experienced colonists laughed up their 
sleeves at the way in which these "greenhorns," fresh from 
Spain, allowed themselves to be lured into so barren an 

Meanwhile Ruiz had sailed south half a degree beyond the 
equator, being the first European to cross it in those waters. 
But of much greater importance was his encounter with a 
native boat, " balsa" or raft the Spaniards called it. It 
was the first boat equipped with sails which they had seen. 


Aboard it were some merchants from the Peruvian town of 
Tumbez. The Spaniards were immensely impressed by the 
signs of civilization; cloth woven from the wool of llamas, 
and wonder of wonders, a balance for weighing gold! Ruiz 
kidnapped the Peruvians, with the intention of training them 
as interpreters, and sailed back to join Pizarro. He found 
his commander reduced to the last extremity from the in- 
hospitality of the country and the fierce hostility of the 

Shortly after his return, Almagro arrived with the new 
recruits. The united forces now started down the coast 
explored by Ruiz. Everywhere they encountered increasing 
evidences of a high civilization and of a formidable enemy. 
It became evident that they would need a much larger army 
to hope for success in this country. 

Again it was decided to send Almagro back to Panama for 
reenforcements. Pizarro was to winter his little army on 
the Island of Gallo. This plan met with serious opposition 
from the men. Those who had experienced the hardships of 
waiting with Pizarro were if anything less indignant than 
the raw recruits from Spain. They were more than sick 
of the continual buffeting of the waves. They had come 
out to the New World in quest of romantic adventure and 
easily-acquired gold. This island offered little prospect of 
booty, very little of food. They all clamored for a return. 
But the leaders foresaw that such a course would mean the 
collapse of the whole undertaking. So Almagro sailed away. 
But not before one of the discontented soldiers, named 
Sarobia, had smuggled a letter aboard done up in a ball of 
cotton a curiosity in the New World which, as a speci- 
men of the riches of the country, was to be given to the wife 
of the governor. Prescott gives this description of the inci- 

"The letter, which was signed by several of the disaffected 


soldiery besides the writer, painted in gloomy colors the 
miseries of their condition, accused the two commanders of 
being the authors of this, and called on the authorities of 
Panama to interfere by sending a vessel to take them from 
the desolate spot. . . . The epistle concluded with a 
stanza, in which the two leaders were stigmatized as partners 
in a slaughter-house; one being employed to drive in the 
cattle for the other to butcher. The verses, which had a 
currency in their day among the colonies to which they were 
certainly not entitled by their poetical merits, may be thus 
rendered into corresponding doggerel: 

Look out, senor Governor, 
For the drover while he's near ; 
Since he goes home to get the sheep 
For the butcher, who stays here. 

"Great was the dismay occasioned by the return of 
Almagro and his followers in the little community of Panama; 
for the letter, surreptitiously conveyed in the ball of cotton, 
fell into the hands for which it was intended, and the con- 
tents soon got abroad with the usual quantity of exaggeration. 
The haggard and dejected mien of the adventurers, of itself, 
told a tale sufficiently disheartening, and it was soon generally 
believed that the few ill-fated survivors of the expedition 
were detained against their will by Pizarro, to end their days 
with their disappointed leader on his desolate island. 

"Pedro de los Rios, the governor, was so much incensed at 
the result of the expedition, and the waste of life it had 
occasioned to the colony, that he turned a deaf ear to all 
the applications of Luque and Almagro for further coun- 
tenance in the affair; he derided their sanguine anticipations 
of the future, and finally resolved to send an officer to the 
isle of Gallo, with orders to bring back every Spaniard whom 
he should find still living in that dreary abode. Two vessels 


were immediately dispatched for the purpose, and placed un- 
der charge of a cavalier named Tafur, a native of Cordova." 

The arrival of Tafur at the Island of Gallo was the turning 
point in the career of Pizarro. If he had faltered some one 
else's name would have come down to us as that of the 
conqueror of Peru. But of all Pizarro's characteristics the 
ability to hang on was the most salient. It was never more 
surely demonstrated than during this crisis. It was just 
such incidents as this which especially appealed to the school 
of romantic historians of which Prescott was so notable an 
example. It furnishes him with a text for one of his most 
eloquent passages: 

"Drawing his sword, he traced a line with it on the sand 
from east to west. Then turning toward the south, ' Friends 
and comrades!' he said, 'on that side are toil, hunger, naked- 
ness, the drenching storm, desertion, and death; on this side, 
ease and pleasure. There lies Peru with its riches; here, 
Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best be- 
comes a brave Castilian. For my part, I go to the south.' 
So saying, he stepped across the line. He was followed by 
the brave pilot Ruiz; next by Pedro de Candia, a cavalier, 
born, as his name imparts, in one of the isles of Greece. 
Eleven others successively crossed the line, thus intimating 
their willingness to abide the fortunes of their leader, for 
good or for evil. Fame, to quote the enthusiastic language 
of an ancient chronicler, has commemorated the names of 
this little band, 'who thus, in the face of difficulties un- 
exampled in history, with death rather than riches for their 
reward, preferred it all to abandoning their honor, and stood 
firm by their leader as an example of loyalty to future ages.' " 

Pizarro and his devoted band of thirteen had a desperate 
period of waiting. " Meanwhile," Prescott continues, "the 
vessel of Tafur had reached the port of Panama. The 
tidings which she brought of the inflexible obstinacy of 


Pizarro and his followers filled the governor with indignation. 
He could look on it in no other light than as an act of suicide, 
and steadily refused to send further assistance to men who 
were obstinately bent on their own destruction. Yet Luque 
and Almagro were true to their engagements. They repre- 
sented to the governor, that if the conduct of their comrade 
was rash, it was at least in the service of the Crown, and in 
prosecuting the great work of discovery. Rios had been 
instructed on his taking the government, to aid Pizarro in 
the enterprise; and to desert him now would be to throw 
away the remaining chance of success, and to incur the 
responsibility of his death and that of the brave men who 
adhered to him. These remonstrances at length so far 
operated on the mind of that functionary, that he reluctantly 
consented that a vessel should be sent to the island of Gor- 
gona, but with no more hands than were necessary to work 
her, and with positive instructions to Pizarro to return in 
six months and report himself at Panama, whatever might 
be the future results of his expedition. 

"Having thus secured the sanction of the executive, the 
two associates lost no time in fitting out a small vessel with 
stores and a supply of arms and ammunition, and dispatched 
it to the island. And although, when the vessel anchored 
off the shore, Pizarro was disappointed to find that it brought 
no additional recruits for the enterprise, yet he greeted it 
with joy, as affording the means of solving the great problem 
of the existence of the rich southern empire, and of thus 
opening the way for its future conquest." 

In due course of time they arrived at Tumbez and, being 
so few, were polite, and so were hospitably received. Once 
more I will turn the narrative over to Prescott : 

"As they drew near, they beheld a town of considerable 
size, with many of the buildings apparently of stone and 
plaster, situated in the bosom of a fruitful meadow, which 


seemed to have been redeemed from the sterility of the 
surrounding country by careful and minute irrigation. When 
at some distance from shore, Pizarro saw standing toward 
him several large balsas. Running alongside of the Indian 
flotilla, he invited some of the chiefs to come on board of his 
vessel. The Peruvians gazed with wonder on every object 
which met their eyes, and especially on their own country- 
men, whom they had little expected to meet there. The 
latter informed them in what manner they had fallen into 
the hands of the strangers, whom they described as a won- 
derful race of beings, that had come thither for no harm, 
but solely to be made acquainted with the country and its 
inhabitants. This account was confirmed by the Spanish 
commander, who persuaded the Indians to return in their 
balsas and report what they had learned to their towns- 
men, requesting them at the same time to provide his vessel 
with refreshments, as it was his desire to enter into a friendly 
intercourse with the natives. 

"The people of Tumbez were gathered along the shore, and 
were gazing with unutterable amazement on the floating 
castle, which, now having dropped anchor, rode lazily at its 
moorings in their bay. They eagerly listened to the accounts 
of their countrymen, and instantly reported the affair to the 
curaca or ruler of the district, who, conceiving that the 
strangers must be beings of a superior order, prepared at 
once to comply with their request. It was not long before 
several balsas were seen steering for the vessel laden with 
bananas, plantains, yuca, Indian corn, sweet potatoes, pine- 
apples, cocoanuts, and other rich products of the bountiful 
vale of Tumbez. . . . 

"On the day following, the Spanish captain sent one of 
his own men, named Alonso de Molina, on shore. . . . 
Toward evening his emissary returned with a fresh supply of 
fruit and vegetables, that the friendly people sent to the 


vessel. Molina had a wondrous tale to tell. On landing, 
he was surrounded by the natives, who expressed the greatest 
astonishment at his dress, his fair complexion and his long 

"Molina was then escorted to the residence of the curaca, 
whom he found living in much state, with porters stationed 
at his doors, and with a quantity of gold and silver vessels 
from which he was served. He was then taken to different 
parts of the Indian city, saw a fortress built of rough stone, 
and though low, spreading over a large extent of ground. 
Near this was a temple; and the Spaniard's description of its 
decorations, blazing with gold and silver, seemed so extrava- 
gant, that Pizarro, distrusting his whole account, resolved 
to send a more discreet and trustworthy emissary on the fol- 
lowing day." 

After spending several days at Tumbez, they continued 
their cruise to nine degrees south and then having "spied 
out the land" they turned north. 

"On leaving Tumbez on their return voyages," writes 
Prescott, "the adventurers steered directly for Panama 
. . . and, after an absence of at least eighteen months, 
found themselves once more safely riding at anchor in the 
harbor of Panama. 

"The sensation caused by their arrival was great, as might 
have been expected. For there were few even among the 
most sanguine of their friends, who did not imagine that 
they had long since paid for their temerity, and fallen victims 
to the climate or the natives, or miserably perished in a 
watery grave. Their joy was proportionably great, there- 
fore, as they saw the wanderers now returned, not only in 
health and safety, but with certain tidings of the fair countries 
which had so long eluded their grasp. It was a moment of 
proud satisfaction to the three associates, who, in spite of 
obloquy, derision, and every impediment which the distrust 


of friends or the coldness of government could throw in their 
way, had persevered in their great enterprise until they had 
established the truth of what had been so generally de- 
nounced as a chimera. . . . 

"Yet the governor, Pedro de los Rios, did not seem, even 
at this moment, to be possessed with a conviction of the 
magnitude of the discovery, or, perhaps, he was discouraged 
by its very magnitude. When the associates, now with more 
confidence, applied to him for patronage in an undertaking 
too vast for their individual resources, he coldly replied, 
'He had no desire to build up other estates at the expense 
of his own: nor would he be led to throw away more lives than 
had already been sacrificed by the cheap display of gold and 
silver toys and a few Indian sheep ! " J 

They had no recourse from this rebuff except an appeal to 
Caesar. So Pizarro set out for Spain. It is typical of the 
times that no one of the three confederates trusted the others. 
They made Pizarro bind himself with endless oaths not to 
play them false. It was a useless precaution. 

He arrived in Spain in 1528 and one of the first familiar 
faces he encountered was that of the Bachelor Enciso. He 
promptly clapped Pizarro in prison for a debt dating back 
to the early days of Santa Maria de la Antigua. However, 
Charles V, hearing of his arrival, ordered his liberation and 
directed him to come at once to court. Here he found his 
kinsman, Hernand Cortes, freshly returned from the con- 
quest of Mexico. 

Pizarro's reception at court was enthusiastic. He was 
granted ample authority to pursue his adventure and was 
created Governor, Captain-General, Adelantado and Alguacil 
Mayor of the new realm, with a salary of 725,000 maravedis. 
An elaborate contract called "The Capitulation" was drawn 
up between him and the crown. It is dated July 29, 1529. 

Pizarro visited his native town of Truxillo and gathered 


up his brothers, three of whom, like himself, were illegitimate. 
Oviedo says of them, "They were all poor, and as proud as 
poor, and their greed for gain was in proportion to their 
penury." They proved to be a very fruitful source of 
trouble in the New World. 

In January, 1530, with less than one hundred and fifty 
men, Pizarro sailed from Spain. He arrived safely at Nombre 
de Dios where he found his two associates waiting for him. 
Their indignation was immense when they heard the terms of 
the capitulation. In spite of his solemn promises to deal 
justly with them, Pizarro had monopolized all the fat offices. 
To be sure, Luque got what he wanted, the bishopric of 
Tumbez, and the title of "Protector of the Indians of Peru." 
An illiterate soldier like Pizarro could scarcely ask for 
ecclesiastical offices. But there was nothing left for Almagro 
except command of the fortress of Tumbez with a salary of 
300,000 maravedis and the rank of "hidalgo." However, 
the quarrel was at last patched up, at least outwardly, and 
they passed over to Panama. 

"No time was now lost in preparing for the voyage," writes 
Prescott. "It found little encouragement, however, among 
the colonists of Panama, who were too familiar with the 
sufferings on the former expeditions to care to undertake 
another, even with the rich bribe that was held out to allure 
them. A few of the old company were content to follow out 
the adventure to its close; and some additional stragglers 
collected from the province of Nicaragua. . . . But 
Pizarro made slender additions to the force brought over 
with him from Spain, though this body was in better con- 
dition, and in respect to arms, ammunition, and equipment 
generally, was on a much better footing than his former levies. 
The whole number did not exceed one hundred and eighty 
men, with twenty-seven horses for the cavalry. . . . 

"On St. John the Evangelist's day, the banners of the 


company and the royal standard were consecrated in the 
cathedral church of Panama; a sermon was preached before 
the little army by Fray Juan de Vargas, one of the Domini- 
cans selected by the government for the Peruvian mission; 
and mass was performed, and the sacrament administered 
to every soldier previous to his engaging in the crusade 
against the infidel." 

The little fleet sailed from the roadstead of Panama early 
in January, 1531. Very few of the hundred and eighty men 
ever came back to Panama, but hundreds and thousands of 
men left Panama to follow their sea trail. 

Shortly afterward, Hernando de Soto, who was later to 
discover the Mississippi, set out with a hundred men and 
some horses to support Pizarro. A year later Almagro sailed 
with a hundred and fifty men. And then for many months 
the people of Panama heard no more of Peru. They went 
about their petty round of slave driving and as the weeks 
slipped by with no news, they began again to poke fun at 
the crazy Padre Luque. 

A little more than a year after Almagro had sailed, in 1533, 
the lookouts descried some ships beating up from the south. 
Altogether, in the three installments, eight ships had gone 
down the coast. There were only two coming back. One 
can imagine how the populace crowded down to the beach, 
how the professional skeptics must have said, "I told you so." 
How worried the Father Luque must have been. 

Hernando Pizarro was on board. He was bringing the 
King's fifth of the Inca's ransom. Sefior Clemencin, of the 
Royal Academy of History at Madrid, made a deep study 
of the relative value of Spanish currency at the time of the 
discovery and our own money. According to his estimate, 
the 1,326,539 pesos of gold to which the Inca's ransom 
amounted would weigh almost as much as $4,000,000 in 
modern gold, and have a purchasing value in those days 


equal to four times as much. Besides the King's fifth, Her- 
nando Pizarro had with him about $6,000,000 belonging to 

The effect of all this wealth on Panama was tremendous. 
No one called Luque "loco" any more. Everyone cursed 
themselves that they had remained scoffing at home. Ex- 
cept for the strenuous efforts of the governor the colony 
would have been depopulated. The tide had definitely turn- 
ed southward. Ship after ship carried hungry adventurers 
down the coast. 

Hernando Pizarro proceeded to Spain. He arrived in 
Seville in January, 1534. His appearance created an im- 
mense sensation. 

"In a short time," Prescott writes, "that cavalier saw 
himself at the head of one of the most numerous and well- 
appointed armaments, probably, that had left the shores 
of Spain since the great fleet of Ovando, in the time of 
Ferdinand and Isabella. It was scarcely more fortunate 
than this. Hardly had Hernando put to sea, when a violent 
tempest fell on the squadron, and compelled him to return 
to port and refit. At length he crossed the ocean, and 
reached the little harbor of Nombre de Dios in safety. But 
no preparations had been made for his coming, and, as he was 
detained here some time before he could pass the mountains, 
his company suffered greatly from scarcity of food. In their 
extremity the most unwholesome articles were greedily 
devoured, and many a cavalier spent his little savings to 
procure himself a miserable subsistence. Disease, as usual, 
trod closely in the track of famine, and numbers of the un- 
fortunate adventurers, sinking under the unaccustomed heats 
of the climate, perished on the very threshold of discovery." 

But the passage of Hernando Pizarro, on his way to Spain 
with this immense wealth, had an even greater effect on the 
towns of Nombre de Dios and Panama. The Isthmus had 


become a thoroughfare. Not only were the riches of the Incas 
greater than those of Mexico, but also more enduring. Even 
after the country had been glutted of its ready wrought 
gold and silver, the slave-worked mines continued to produce 
rich returns. Of all this wealth crossing the Isthmus some 
of course stuck by the way. The rapid rush of immigrants, 
the growing trade, forced the development of industry. 
Ships had to be built, armor made and repaired, expeditions 
outfitted. Panama had a boom ! 

Civil war soon broke out in Peru. The long-standing feud 
between Francisco Pizarro and Almagro came to an issue. 
Almagro was executed on a rather slender case of treason. 
His followers rallied about his half-breed son Diego and they 
in time assassinated Francisco Pizarro. A new, and on 
the whole, able governor, Vasco de Castro, arrived in 1541, 
but he was soon succeeded by a blunderer named Vasco 
Nunez Vela, who was sent out to enforce the "new laws" 
in defence of the natives which had been proclaimed by the 
throne on the instance of Las Casas. 

Vasco Nunez Vela, the governor who was sent out to 
administer them, was a stupid man, a martinet of violent 
temper. Almost as soon as he arrived in Peru, he developed a 
suspicious temper, throwing his predecessor de Castro into 
prison and very shortly murdering with his own hand a very 
popular and apparently upright man named Suarez de Car- 
bajal. This and other acts of senseless tyranny soon made 
him insupportable and he was thrown into prison by the 
Audiencia, or judicial body, after an informal impeachment. 
The judges then pronounced Gonzalo Pizarro, a brother of 
Francisco, viceroy. Vasco Nunez Vela, escaped from his 
captors, rallied a small army and took the field. On January 
18, 1546, he was utterly defeated by Pizarro, and being taken 
prisoner was beheaded by a negro slave belonging to a brother 
of the Carbajal whom he had himself murdered. 


This victory left Gonzalo Pizarro in control of the vast 
empire of Peru. He had a large and seasoned army, the 
silver mines of Potosi were bringing him in a revenue which 
rivaled that of any European ruler. His large navy gave 
him command of the sea, and his admiral, Hinojosa, occupied 
the Isthmus. He was indeed in a position which might well 
have turned the head of a man less proud and ambitious. 
It would have been a bold prophet who would have said that 
the King of Spain could send out a strong enough force to 
reduce him. First of all such an armament would have 
had to cross the Atlantic, then fight its way across the moun- 
tain breastworks of the Isthmus. Then it would have had to 
build a navy capable of overthrowing Hinojosa, and then at 
last meet the flower of Spanish knighthood and desperado- 
dom in the almost inaccessible Andes. Any army which 
could have fought its way so far in the face of the fevers 
would indeed have been remarkable. 

However, within two years Gonzalo Pizarro was beheaded 
by a legitimate Spanish viceroy. The man who did it was 
a priest, Pedro de la Gasca. He was undoubtedly the most 
remarkable man who ever crossed the Isthmus. 

De la Gasca was born near the end of the fifteenth cen- 
tury; he had been educated in the famous university of 
Salamanca and had become a member of the Council of the 
Inquisition. He was a man of humble exterior, but richly 
endowed with quiet, diplomatic tact, of invincible strength 
of will and above all, a keen judge of men. He had already 
distinguished himself in many delicate situations, in which 
he had always managed to secure exactly the outcome desired 
by his royal master. He was one of the ablest and most 
loyal agents that ever was found by an autocrat. 

When, in 1545, Charles V heard of the overthrow of his 
governor, Vasco Nunez Vela the news of his defeat and 
death did not come to court until several months later he 


realized the impossibility of reducing Peru to obedience by 
an armed force and he turned to de la Gasca. Although 
past the prime of life, the priest accepted the commission. 
He, however, stipulated that he should have absolute 
authority to arrange things as he felt best. "For myself," 
he said, "I ask neither salary nor compensation of any 
kind. I want no pomp of state nor military force. I 
hope to do the work intrusted to me with my breviary and 

Accompanied by Alonso de Alvarado, an officer who had 
served under Pizarro and who knew personally most of the 
soldiers of Peru, de la Gasca set out from Spain on the 26th 
of May, 1546. About the middle of July he arrived off the 
coast of the Isthmus. 

Hernan Mexia had been put in command of Nombre de 
Dios by Gonzalo Pizarro and he had explicit instructions 
not to allow any hostile forces from Spain to land. But he 
had no orders to exclude a simple priest. The politic course 
of this master diplomat, while on the Isthmus, is very ably 
described by Prescott : 

"The candid and conciliatory language of the president 
(delaCasca) . . . made a sensible impression on Mexia. 
He admitted the force of Gasca's reasoning, and flattered 
himself that Gonzalo Pizarro would not be insensible to it. 
Though attached to the fortunes of that leader, he was loyal 
in heart, and, like most of the party, had been led by accident, 
rather than by design, into rebellion; and now that so good 
an opportunity occurred to do it with safety, he was not 
unwilling to retrace his steps, and secure the royal favor by 
thus early returning to his allegiance. This he signified to 
the president, assuring him of his hearty cooperation in the 
good work of reform. 

"This was an important step for Gasca. It was yet more 
important for him to secure the obedience of Hinojosa, the 


governor of Panama, in the harbor of which city lay Pizarro's 
navy, consisting of two-and-twenty vessels. . . . 

"The president first sent Mexia and Alonso de Alvarado to 
prepare the way for his own coming by advising Hinojosa 
of the purport of his mission. He soon after followed, and 
was received by that commander with every show of outward 
respect. But while the latter listened with deference to 
the representations of Gasca, they failed to work the change 
in him which they had wrought in Mexia. . . . 

"Hinojosa was not satisfied; and he immediately wrote to 
Pizarro, acquainting him with Gasca's arrival, and with the 
object of his mission, . . . But before the departure 
of the ship, Gasca secured the services of a Dominican friar, 
who had taken his passage on board for one of the towns on 
the coast. This man he intrusted with manifestos, setting 
forth the purport of his visit, and proclaiming the abolition 
of the ordinances, with a free pardon to all who returned 
to their obedience. . . . These papers the Dominican en- 
gaged to distribute himself, among the principal cities of the 
colony; and he faithfully kept his word, though as it proved 
at no little hazard of his life. The seeds thus scattered 
might, many of them, fall on barren ground. But the greater 
part, the president trusted, would take root in the hearts of 
the people; and he patiently waited for the harvest. 

"Meanwhile, though he failed to remove the scruples of 
Hinojosa, the courteous manners of Gasca, and his mild, 
persuasive discourse, had a visible effect on other individuals 
with whom he had daily intercourse. Several of these, and 
among them some of the principal cavaliers in Panama, as 
well as in the squadron, expressed their willingness to join 
the royal cause, and aid the president in maintaining it. 
. . . He, at length, also prevailed on the governor of 
Panama to furnish him with the means of entering into 
communication with Gonzalo Pizarro himself; and a ship 


was dispatched to Lima, bearing a letter from Charles the 
Fifth addressed to that chief, with an epistle also from Gasca. 

"The emperor's communication was couched in the most 
condescending and even conciliatory terms. 

"Gasca's own letter was pitched in the same polite key. 
He remarked, however, that the exigencies which had 
hitherto determined Gonzalo's line of conduct existed no 
longer. All that had been asked was conceded. There was 
nothing now to contend for; and it only remained for Pizarro 
and his followers to show their loyalty and the sincerity of 
their principles by obedience to the crown. Hitherto, the 
president said, Pizarro had been in arms against the viceroy; 
and the people had supported him as against a common 
enemy. If he prolonged the contest, that enemy must be 
his sovereign. In such a struggle, the people would be sure 
to desert him; and Gasca conjured him, by his honor as a 
cavalier, and his duty as a loyal vassal, to respect the royal 
authority, and not rashly provoke a contest which must 
prove to the world that his conduct hitherto had been dic- 
tated less by patriotic motives than by selfish ambition. . . 

"Weeks and months rolled away, while the president still 
remained at Panama, where, indeed, as his communica- 
tions were jealously cut off with Peru, he might be said to 
be detained as a sort of prisoner of state. Meanwhile, both 
he and Hinojosa were looking with anxiety for the arrival 
of some messenger from Pizarro, who should indicate the 
manner in which the president's mission was to be received 
by that chief. The governor of Panama was not blind to the 
perilous position in which he was himself placed, nor to the 
madness of provoking a contest with the Court of Castile. 
But he had a reluctance, not too often shared by the cavaliers 
of Peru, to abandon the fortunes of the commander who had 
reposed in him so great confidence. Yet he trusted that this 
commander would embrace the opportunity now offered, of 


placing himself and the country in a state of permanent 

"He (Pizarro) learned, with no little uneasiness, from 
Hinojosa, of the landing of President Gasca, and the purport 
of his mission. But his discontent was mitigated, when he 
understood that the new envoy had come without military 
array, without any of the ostentatious trappings of office to 
impose on the minds of the vulgar, but alone, as it were, in 
the plain garb of an humble missionary. Pizarro could not 
discern, that under this modest exterior lay a moral power, 
stronger than his own steel-clad battalions, which, operating 
silently on public opinion, the more sure that it was silent, 
was even now undermining his strength, like a subterraneous 
channel eating away the foundations of some stately edifice, 
that stands secure in its pride of place! 

" But, although Gonzalo Pizarro could not foresee this re- 
sult, he saw enough to satisfy him that it would be safest to 
exclude the president from Peru. The tidings of his arrival, 
moreover, quickened his former purpose of sending an em- 
bassy to Spain to vindicate his late proceedings, and request 
the royal confirmation of his authority. The person placed at 
the head of this mission was Lorenzo de Aldana. . . . 

"Aldana, fortified with his dispatches, sped swiftly on his 
voyage to Panama. Through him the governor learned the 
actual state of feeling in the councils of Pizarro; and he 
listened with regret to the envoy's conviction, that no terms 
would be admitted by that chief or his companions, that 
did not confirm him in the possession of Peru. 

"Aldana was soon admitted to an audience by the presi- 
dent. It was attended with very different results from what 
had followed from the conferences with Hinojosa; for Pizarro 's 
envoy was not armed by nature with that stubborn panoply 
which had hitherto made the other proof against all argu- 
ment. He now learned with surprise the nature of Gasca's 


powers, and the extent of the royal concessions to the in- 
surgents. He had embarked with Gonzalo Pizarro on a 
desperate venture, and he found that it had proved successful. 
The colony had nothing more, in reason, to demand; and, 
though devoted in heart to his leader, he did not feel bound 
by any principle of honor to take part with him, solely to 
gratify his ambition, in a wild contest with the Crown that 
must end in inevitable ruin. He consequently abandoned 
his mission to Castile, * . . and announced his purpose to 
accept the pardon proffered by the government, and support 
the president in settling the affairs of Peru. He subsequently 
wrote, it should be added, to his former commander in Lima, 
stating the course he had taken, and earnestly recommending 
the latter to follow his example. 

"The influence of this precedent in so important a person 
as Aldana, aided, doubtless, by the conviction that no change 
was now to be expected in Pizarro, while delay would be 
fatal to himself, at length prevailed over Hinojosa's scruples, 
and he intimated to Gasca his willingness to place the fleet 
under his command. The act was performed with great 
pomp and ceremony. ... On the 19th of November, 
1546, Hinojosa and his captains resigned their commissions 
into the hands of the president. They next took the oaths 
of allegiance to Castile; a free pardon for all past offences was 
proclaimed by the herald from the scaffold erected in the 
great square of the city; and the president, greeting them as 
true and loyal vassals of the Crown, restored their several 
commissions to the cavaliers. The royal standard of Spain 
was then unfurled on board the squadron, and proclaimed 
that the stronghold of Pizarro's power had passed away from 
him forever." 

The rest was easy. The fleet sailed down to Peru. De 
la Gasca, by the same arguments, the same appeal to the 
inherent loyalty of the Spanish cavaliers, won over one of 


Pizarro's allies after another. When the time was ripe and 
his forces strong enough he laid aside his conciliatory manner 
and took the field. 

On the 8th of April, 1548, the Royalist and Rebel armies 
met at Xaquixaguana. Half of Pizarro's men threw down 
their arms at the last moment and went over to de la Gasca. 
The rest were utterly defeated. Within a few days Gonzalo 
Pizarro and his principal general, Carbajal, were beheaded. 

Prescott sums up the character of de la Gasca in this 
paragraph : 

"In the long procession which has passed in review before 
us, we have seen only the mail-clad cavalier, brandishing 
his bloody lance, and mounted on his war-horse, riding over 
the helpless natives, or battling with his own friends and 
brothers; fierce, arrogant, and cruel, urged on by the lust of 
gold, or the scarce more honorable love of a bastard glory. 
Mingled with these qualities, indeed, we have seen sparkles 
of the chivalrous and romantic temper which belongs to the 
heroic age of Spain. But, with some honorable exceptions, it 
was the scum of her chivalry that resorted to Peru, and took 
service under the banner of the Pizarros. At the close of 
this long array of iron warriors, we behold the poor and 
humble missionary coming into the land on an errand of 
mercy, and everywhere proclaiming the glad tidings of peace. 
The means he employs are in perfect harmony with this end. 
His weapons are argument and mild persuasion. It is the 
reason he would conquer, not the body. He wins his way by 
conviction, not by violence." 



THE Conquistadores, despite their romantic renown, were 
villainous desperadoes. Bad as was Pedrarias, and it would 
be hard to exaggerate his crimes, his brutalities were ex- 
ceeded by his successors. The daring of these men, which 
was immense, was surpassed by their cruelty. Their relig- 
ious devotion in no way interfered with their vices. The 
nardships they endured without flinching were tremendous, 
but their treachery was as incredible. They were engaged 
in a race for the Palms of Infamy and the finish was close. 

The history of those days would be too depressing to 
study if it were not illumined by the noble life of Don Fray 
Bartholome* de Las Casas. 

"His career affords perhaps a solitary instance of a man, 
who, being neither a conqueror, a discoverer nor an inventor, 
has, by the pure force of benevolence, become so notable a 
figure, that large portions of history cannot be written, or 
at least cannot be understood, without the narrative of his 
deeds. ... In early American history Las Casas is, 
undoubtedly, the principal figure. . . . He was an im- 
portant person in reference to all that concerned the Indies, 
during the reigns of Ferdinand the Catholic, of Philip the 
Handsome, of his son Charles the Fifth, and of Philip the 
Second. . . . Take away all he said, and did, and 
wrote, and preserved (for the early historians of the New 
World owe the records of many of their most notable facts to 
him), and the history of the conquest would lose a consider- 
able portion of its most precious materials. 



. "It may be fearlessly asserted, that Las Casas had a 
greater number of bitter enemies than any man who lived 
in his time. . . . During his lifetime there was always 
one person to maintain that strict justice should be done to 
the Indians. . . . 

"In the cause of the Indians, whether he upheld it in 
speech, in writing, or in action, he appears never for one 
moment to have swerved from the exact path of equity. 
He has been justly called 'The Great Apostle of the Indies.' " 

Las Casas was in the City of Panama in February, 1532, 
and probably again two years later. But even if he had 
never set foot on the Isthmus, he would, as Sir Arthur Helps 
states in the above quotation, be a necessary part of its 

Born in Seville in 1474, he studied theology in the Uni- 
versity of Salamanca and became a licentiate at eighteen. 
When he was twenty-four he accompanied Columbus on his 
third voyage. Two years after his return, in 1502, just 
before the Great Admiral set sail on his last cruise, Las 
Casas went out to Santo Domingo in the train of Nicolas 
de Ovando, who had been appointed governor to replace 

He was the first priest ordained in the Indies, and seems 
to have led a quiet and unobserved life until he was thirty- 
six, at which time he accompanied the expedition of Diego 
Velasquez which went out to conquer Cuba. 

The Clerigo, as Las Casas always calls himself, developed 
a marked talent for conciliating the natives. One tribe 
after another submitted through his mediation, without 
recourse to arms. The common soldiers, however, viewed 
these humane measures with open disgust. Conquest 
without plunder was not to the liking of these freebooters. 
In the village of Caonao, where many natives had gathered 
to treat with Las Casas, one of the Spaniards suddenly 


drew his sword and a massacre was started before the 
Clerigo could interfere. The sight of the dead bodies, 
piled "like sheaves of corn," was, Las Casas tells us, the 
thing which set him thinking. 

The work of pacification had to be begun over again. 
With infinite patience the Clerigo was able to regain the 
confidence of the Indians. But it was of course impossible 
for him to protect them against the brutality of his coun- 
trymen. His work came to naught so far as the benefit of 
the natives was concerned. However, as it is much easier 
to massacre natives who have been pacified than to fight 
tribes who are hostile, the officials appreciated the Clerigo's 
activity and rewarded him with a "repartimiento" near 

This institution became so large an issue in the life of 
Las Casas, that a few words of explanation are necessary. 
After the conquest of a territory the land and natives were 
divided by the governor among his friends by deeds of gift 
called "repartimientos," which said that so many Indians, 
under such a cacique, had been given to such a person to 
command (encomienda) and which always ended with the 
phrase, "and you are to teach them the things of our Holy 
Catholic Faith." Of course the hardened soldiers of the 
Conquest very rarely allowed this final clause to interfere 
with the work of gold mining. They baptized their Indians 
and made slaves of them. Las Casas accepted his reparti- 
miento without question. Indeed, in the third book of his 
"Historia de las Indias," he confesses that he "took no more 
heed than the other Spaniards to bethink himself that his 
Indians were unbelievers, and of the duty that there was 
on his part to give them instruction, and to bring them to 
the bosom of the Church of Christ." 

He was forty years old when the light came to him. In 
the year 1514, while preparing a sermon for the feast of 


Pentecost, he came across the thirty-fourth chapter of 
Ecclesiasticus. He especially speaks of these verses as 
having opened his eyes. 

"He that sacrificeth of a thing wrongfully gotten, his 
offering is ridiculous; and the gifts of unjust men are not 

"The Most High is not pleased with the offering of the 
wicked: neither is he pacified for sin by the multitude of 

"Whoso bringeth an offering of the goods of the poor 
doeth as one that killeth the son before his father's eyes. 

"The bread of the needy is their life; he that defrauded 
him thereof is a man of blood. 

"He that taketh away his neighbor's living slayeth him; 
and he that defraudeth the laborer of his hire is a blood- 

A truer "conversion" has never been recorded in history. 
Something in those words, which he had probably read many 
times before, changed the worldly-minded priest into an 
ardent apostle. Inevitably one compares this to the con- 
version of Count Tolstoi. Any social organization by which 
some live idly from the forced work of others is in conflict 
with the fundamental ethics of the Bible. It was as true 
four centuries ago as it is to-day. Las Casas felt the system 
of repartimientos to be un-Christian, and, like Tolstoi, he 
decided to be a Christian. 

First of all, it was necessary for him to surrender his own 
Indians. Although he knew that they would be given to 
someone else who would work them to death, the answer to 
any sermon of his would be his own repartimiento. So he 
gave them up. 

Las Casas was not one to allow rust to accumulate on his 
resolution. Helps describes the beginning of his ministry 
as follows: 


"When preaching on the day of 'The Assumption of Our 
Lady/ he took occasion to mention publicly the conclusion 
he had come to as regards his own affairs, and also to urge 
upon his congregation in the strongest manner his convic- 
tion of the danger to their souls if they retained their reparti- 
mientos of Indians. All were amazed; some were struck 
with compunction; others were as much surprised to hear 
it called a sin to make use of the Indians as if they had been 
told it was sinful to make use of the beasts of the field. 

"After Las Casas had uttered many exhortations both in 
public and in private, and had found that they were of little 
avail, he meditated how to go to the fountain-head of au- 
thority, the King of Spain. The Clerigo's resources were ex- 
hausted: he had not a maravedi, or the means of getting one, 
except by selling a mare which was worth a hundred pesos." 

The Clerigo was assisted by Pedro de Renteria, the one 
friend who remained true to him in the face of his sub- 
versive attacks on private property. At Santo Domingo, 
Las Casas was hospitably received by Pedro de Cordova, 
the prelate of the Dominicans in America. This order, 
which we most often think of as the fanatical advocates of 
the Inquisition, became notable in the New World for their 
humane interest in the natives. Father de Cordova, know- 
ing the ways of the world better than the Clerigo, could give 
him little encouragement of relief from the king, but he gave 
him his blessing. In September, 1515, accompanied by two 
Dominican brothers, Las Casas sailed for Spain. 

About Christmas time the Clerigo arrived at Court and 
was received by the old king. His fervid earnestness made 
so strong an impression that he had been granted another 
interview. It was prevented by the death of the king. 
It is surprising how often Las Casas won over some power- 
ful ally and then, just when things looked most hopeful, was 
defeated by death and forced to begin all over again. 


He was not so successful in his effort to secure the favor 
of the powerful Bishop of Burgos. Of this prelate, Helps 
writes : 

"The Bishop of Burgos was one of those ready, bold, 
and dexterous men, with a great reputation for fidelity, 
who are such favourites with princes. He went through so 
many stages of preferment, that it is sometimes difficult to 
trace him; and the student of early American history will 
have a bad opinion of many Spanish bishops, if he does not 
discover that it is Bishop Fonseca who reappears under vari- 
ous designations. He held successively the Archdeaconate 
of Seville, the Bishoprics of Badajoz, Cordova, Palencia, 
and Conde, the Archbishopric of Rosano (in Italy), with the 
Bishopric of Burgos, besides the office of Capellan mayor to 
Isabella, and afterwards to Ferdinand." 

His interview with the bishop was stormy. Unable to 
move the smug courtier by his eloquence, he, as a last effort, 
told him how seven thousand Indian children had perished 
in three months. 

"How does all this concern me or His Majesty, the 
King?" the cynical Fonseca asked. 

Las Casas told him that all these infant souls would rise 
up against him on the Day of Judgment, and left in a 

The king died in January, 1516, and Las Casas imme- 
diately went to Madrid to lay his case before the Cardinal 
Ximenes and the Ambassador Adrian, who had been ap- 
pointed regents until Charles should reach his majority. 
Luckily for the Indians, the death of the old king excluded 
the ubiquitous Fonseca from the councils for a time, and 
the Clerigo was able to obtain an unprejudiced hearing from 
the regents. Ximenes seems to have desired to rule the 
colonies wisely. Shocked by the stories of the outrages 
committed on the Indians, which the Clerigo told, he called 


a Junta, or special council, to consider the affairs of the 

An incident occurred in one of these meetings which is 
typical of Las Casas. The cardinal, wanting to know the 
existing conditions, ordered a secretary to read the laws 
which had been drawn up by the preceding council. The clerk 
happened to be a retainer of Fonseca, and when he came to 
a section which was patently unjust, he wilfully misread it to 
shield his patron. Las Casas knew the law by heart and 
protested that the clerk was wrong. Ximenes ordered the 
man to reread it. He repeated his distortion. Las Casas 
jumped up and exclaimed, "The law says no such thing." 
The cardinal was vexed by the incident and told Las Casas 
not to interrupt. But the man was not born who could still 
the voice of the Clerigo when he thought he was right. 

"Your Lordship, you can hang me, if the law says that!" 

One of the councillors took the law and read it. Las 
Casas was right. 

"You can imagine," he writes, "that the clerk (whose 
name, for his honor's sake, I will not give) wished that he 
had never been born." And he adds, "the Clerigo lost 
nothing of the regard in which the Cardinal held him nor 
in the credit which he put in his word." 

The Junta drew up a code of laws for the Indies, prac- 
tically at the dictation of Las Casas. This in itself was a 
remarkable result to be accomplished by an unknown col- 
onial priest, who had no aristocratic prestige, little learning 
and no friends but those he could win by his own fervor. 
But while the framing of good laws is easy under an auto- 
cratic government, where the reformer has to convince only 
a small group, the enforcement of good laws is very difficult 
to achieve. In this case the administration was intrusted 
to four fathers of the Jeronimite Order, who were sent 
out to Santo Domingo with full powers. 


This code was long and complicated; the gist of it was the 
abolition of slavery. It did not go as far in that direction 
as the Clerigo wished, but it was a long step forward. Natu- 
rally it encountered opposition. It attacked the pocket- 
books of many of "the best people" of the day. When the 
"colonial lobby" at Madrid found that they could not reach 
the Cardinal Ximenes, they turned their attention to the 
Jeronimite fathers. Las Casas boldly asserts that the 
"interests" succeeded in fixing them. 

Certain it is that the good fathers proceeded very cau- 
tiously in the enforcement of the laws. They arrived in 
Santo Domingo in December, 1516. Whether or not they 
were actually bribed it is impossible to determine. They 
were men of peace. If they had been of one of the sterner 
and more militant orders they might have done their duty. 
As yet the conquests had not been broad enough to firmly 
establish the system of repartimientos. It might have been 
stamped out on the islands before it gained a foothold on 
the continent. But brought up in the seclusion of their 
cloisters, disciplined in humility, accustomed to bow down 
before the mighty, these fathers proved unequal to their 
great task. They made friends with the mammon of un- 

Las Casas, who had been given the title of "Protector of 
the Indians," but no powers, arrived in Santo Domingo 
shortly after them. He, of course, was outraged at their 
ineffectiveness. In order to force them to action, he 
brought an impeachment against the judges of the colony, 
who were among the worst offenders. He called it "una 
terrible acusacion." What the outcome of this proceeding 
was we do not know. But it forever branded Las Casas as 
a "disturber of the peace." The Jeronomite fathers said 
he was a torch which threatened to set everything afire. 
He had definitely placed himself with the "muck-rakers" 

LAS CA8A8 261 

and "undesirable citizens." Hopeless of accomplishing any- 
thing in Santo Domingo, he returned to Spain in May, 1517 
only to find his good friend the Cardinal Ximenes at the 
point of death. 

The government, for Charles V was still a minor, now fell 
into the hands of two Flemish nobles, William, Lord of 
Chieves and Jean Salvage, whom the Spaniards called 
Selvagius. These ministers, although accused of taking 
small interest in Spanish affairs, the poorest province of all 
the vast domains of the Spanish crown, gave considerable 
attention to colonial matters. Las Casas received a hear- 
ing. As usual, his ardent eloquence won their respect. The 
Chancellor, Selvagius, took up the matter with the young 
king and received authority to draw up more laws. 

The Clerigo was a man who was always learning. He had 
come to realize that there was an imperative need for laborers 
in the colony. No laws could alter that. Either the colo- 
nies must be abandoned or laborers found for the mines, the 
fields and for transportation. The only way to get work out 
of the nomadic Indians was to enslave them. If he wished 
to rescue them it was necessary to find other labor. 

With this idea in mind he drew up an elaborate scheme 
for the chancellor. The main feature was the stimulation 
of peasant immigration from Spain. So far the colonists were 
of three classes, gentlemen adventurers, mercenary soldiers 
and common sailors. None of them furnished a reliable 
labor force. Every year famine killed hundreds of peasants 
in Spain. It was an ambitious emigration scheme they 
were to be transported free, given fields and tools; but the 
wealth flowing into the royal treasury from the colonies 
certainly warranted the expense. 

But Las Casas was always unexpectedly running up against 
" vested interests." He looked directly to his goal of justice 
and was always surprised to find that " property rights" stood 


above "human rights." That the whole feudal aristocracy of 
Spain would rise as a body in indignation against a scheme 
which offered their starving serfs a chance to escape from vil- 
lainage never occurred to him. The peasants were eager to go. 
In one village of two hundred souls, Berlanga, seventy applied 
for permission. Many of them gave as their reason their 
desire to escape from the seignors and bring up their children 
"in a free land under royal jurisdiction." The outcry of the 
nobility against this incendiary priest was so great that the 
scheme fell through. 

The Bishop Fonseca had again come into power after the 
death of Ximenes. He was only too glad to grasp this oppor- 
tunity to thwart his old enemy, Las Casas. 

Among other recommendations in the Clerigo's project to 
relieve the Indians was one which has been often cited 
against him by his enemies. He advocated the importation 
of negro slaves. This was certainly borrowing from Peter 
on behalf of Paul. It is well to remember, as mitigating 
circumstances, that negro slavery existed in these United 
States up to fifty years ago. Four centuries ago no voice 
had been raised against it. While Las Casas had with his 
own eyes seen the horrors of the enforced mine labors of the 
Indians, the brutality of their conquerors, their speedy 
death, most of the negro slaves he had seen were body or 
house servants. The suggestion did not originate with him. 
His recommendation was rather to regulate the slave-trade, 
than, as is often asserted, to create it. 

The surprising thing is not that he proposed this measure, 
which does not seem to have shocked any of his contempo- 
aries, but that he repented of it. Years afterwards he 
wrote: "This advice, that license should be given to bring 
negro slaves to these lands, the Clerigo Casas first gave, not 
considering the injustice with which the Portuguese take 
them, and make them slaves; which advice, after he had 


apprehended the nature of the thing, he would not have 
given for all he had in the world. For he always held that 
they had been made slaves unjustly and tyrannically; for 
the same reason holds good of them as of the Indians." 

Of all the proposals of his elaborate programme of reform, 
most of which was farsighted and wise, only the one which 
was utterly bad was accepted. 

Absolutely defeated in all his efforts by the influence of 
greed, Las Casas tried to think out some remedy which, 
while benefiting the Indians, would at the same time be 
attractive to the mercenary people who possessed the powers 
of government. His scheme took the form of a plan of 
colonization. He wanted to create a lay order of Christian 
Knights who would be willing to settle some portion of the 
mainland and while primarily interested in bringing the 
natives to Christianity would also be able to guarantee an 
attractive income to the Crown. He thought it would be 
possible to make a missionary crusade produce dividends. 

His project, noble in its conception and compounded with 
considerable common-sense, seems bizarre and unpractical as 
we read of it to-day. But it was a bizarre age. It excited 
a great deal of violent discussion. Among others who ap- 
proved of it were the new Premier, Gattinara, an intensely 
practical and worldly man, and Pedro de C6rdova, the 
Dominican prelate of Santo Domingo, than whom no more 
spiritually minded churchman ever came to America. How- 
ever, anything suggested by Las Casas was sure to be at- 
tacked. The Clerigo seems to have ignored the ribald 
jokes with dignity. But in his history he tells of one 
criticism which seems to have wounded him deeply. The 
licentiate Aguirre, a man renowned for his godliness, who 
had always been an able supporter of Las Casas, was shocked 
when he heard of all these business negotiations, and said, 
Las Casas tells us, "that such a manner of preaching the 


Gospels grieved him deeply, for it showed an interest in 
temporal affairs, which he had not before suspected in the 
Clerigo." Helps gives an almost literal translation of the 
incident as recorded by Las Casas: 

"Las Casas, having heard what Aguirre had said, took 
occasion to speak to him one day in the following terms: 
' Sefior, if you were to see our Lord Jesus Christ maltreated, 
vituperated, and afflicted, would you not implore with all 
your might that those who had him in their power would 
give him to you, that you might serve and worship him?' 
'Yes,' said Aguirre. 'Then,' replied Las Casas, 'if they 
would not give him to you, but would sell him, would you 
redeem him?' 'Without a doubt.' 'Well, then, Sefior,' 
rejoined Las Casas, 'that is what I have done, for I have 
left in the Indies Jesus Christ, our Lord, suffering stripes, 
and afflictions, and crucifixion, not once but thousands of 
times, at the hands of the Spaniards, who destroy and deso- 
late those Indian nations, taking from them the opportunity 
of conversion and penitence, so that they die without faith 
and without sacraments." 

"Then Las Casas went on to explain how he had sought to 
remedy these things in the way that Aguirre would most have 
approved. To this the answer had been, that the King 
would have no rents, wherefore, when he, Las Casas, saw 
that his opponents would sell him the gospel, he had offered 
those temporal inducements which Aguirre had heard of 
and disapproved. 

"The licentiate considered this a sufficient answer, and 
so, I think, would any reasonable man." 

In this, as in every project of the Clerigo's, the Bishop 
Fonseca was an active opponent. The plan might never 
have been approved of were it not that the news of many 
recent scandals came to court at this time. A letter came 
from Fray Francisco de Sant Roman, a monk in Panama, 

LAS CASA8 265 

telling of the infamous raid of Pedrarias's Alcalde, Espinosa, 
in which 40,000 Indians had been killed. 

Oviedo, the historian who had gone out to Castilla del 
Oro with Pedrarias, had returned to court and was pro- 
testing against the crimes of that governor. Not long after- 
wards, Quevedo, the Bishop of Darien, arrived with fresh 

Las Casas, who like his Master had an especial talent for 
baiting the Pharisees, soon came to an argument with this 
oily prelate. Words ran high, and the Clerigo, who was by 
no means afraid of a bishop, brought the quarrel to a close 
by saying that unless Quevedo returned all the money he 
had wrung from his flock he had less chance of salvation 
than Judas Iscariot. 

The king, hearing of this tilt, and dearly loving the scho- 
lastic disputations of the day, wherein the subtlest argu- 
ments joined hands with the crudest invectives, summoned 
them both before him to have it out. The bishop spoke 
first, and among other things said that five years in the 
colonies had convinced him that the Indians were by nature 

The Clerigo's speech is too long to reproduce, and the 
style of oratory then in vogue is no longer fashionable. 
But Las Casas had that rare gift of eloquence, shared by 
such men as Savonarola, which can for a time lift the most 
worldly man to an appreciation of spiritual values. He 
completely won his hearers. 

When he finished, a Franciscan father, who had just re- 
turned from the Indies, spoke. 

"My lord," he said, "I have been certain years in the 
island of Hispaniola, and I was commanded with others to 
go and visit and take the number of Indians in the island, 
and we found that they were so many thousand. After- 
wards, at the end of two years, a similar charge was again 


given to me, and we found that there had perished so many 
thousands. And thus the infinity of people who were in 
that island has been destroyed. Now, if the blood of one 
person unjustly put to death was of such effect that it was 
not removed out of the sight of God until he had taken ven- 
geance for it, and the blood of the others never ceases to 
exclaim Vindica sanguinem nostrum, Deus noster, what will 
the blood do of such innumerable people as have perished in 
those lands under such great tyranny and injustice? Then, 
by the blood of Jesus Christ and by the wounds of St. 
Francis, I pray and entreat Your Majesty that you would 
find a remedy for such wickedness and such destruction of 
people, as perish daily there, so that the divine justice may 
not pour out its severe indignation upon all of us." 

It was a short speech, but so fervent and impressive that 
Las Casas says that it seemed to all present as if they were 
listening to words from the Day of Judgment. 

The king was deeply touched and ordered the Council of 
the Indies to do all in their power to further the project of 
Las Casas. The necessary decrees received the royal signa- 
ture on the 19th of May, 1520. Very shortly Las Casas 
sailed to Santo Domingo, where he hoped to recruit the 
knights for his crusade. But when he touched at Porto 
Rico, en route, he found that once more his hopes were 
shattered. War had broken out on the coast of Venezuela, 
the very territory which had been assigned to him. Arrived 
in Santo Domingo, his old enemies again attacked him. This 
time they declared that his ship was unseaworthy and kept 
him a practical prisoner until the slaves, which the expedition 
into his territory were capturing, began to appear in the 
market of Santo Domingo. Then, when it was too late for 
any chance of success for his scheme of friendly coloniza- 
tion, they let him go. He arrived at Cumana at last to 
find the country round about devastated. 


Broken in spirit, he returned to Santo Domingo and 
entered the Dominican Monastery in 1522. He was forty- 
eight years old when he became a monk. His retirement 
from the world seemed a surrender and there was joy in the 
camp of his enemies. 

We know very little of his life during these years of seclu- 
sion. It is probable that he began work on his great "His- 
toria de las Indias." Certainly he spent much time in 
study, for when after eight years he emerged from his retreat 
he was a learned man. Too learned, anyone is apt to say, 
who reads his writings, for they are cluttered up with endless 
quotations from the Classics and from the Church Fathers. 
But barren as this scholastic philosophy seems to us to-day, 
it was the dominant mode of thought in his age. In the 
famous controversies of his old age his intimate knowl- 
edge of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas was an im- 
mensely powerful weapon. 

Sir Arthur Helps calls attention to one significant fact. 
It is the only thing we know with certainty about his years 
in the monastery. He was not allowed to preach. Even 
the Dominicans, the most fearless and the most friendly to 
the Indians of all the orders in America, did not dare to let 
this firebrand occupy their pulpit. 

During these eight years great things happened outside 
the cloister walls. Cortes completed his conquest of Mex- 
ico. Pedrarias and his captains overran Nicaragua. Alva- 
rado subdued Guatemala. Pizarro had embarked on his 
Peruvian enterprise. 

After eight years of seclusion, Father Las Casas suddenly 
reappeared in Court. Once more on behalf of the Indians, 
this time in an effort to save the Indians of Peru. But 
he reached Spain in 1530, just after Pizarro had sailed back 
to the Isthmus. He secured the passage of some protective 
laws and returned to Santo Domingo, where two friars 


joined him in his effort to overtake Pizarro and restrain his 
cruelty. They went by way of Mexico to settle some dis- 
putes in the Dominican Chapter there, and then overland 
to Puerto Realejo on the Pacific, where they found a ship 
sailing for Peru. 

The Clerigo gives very little information about this jour- 
ney. I have been unable to find any record of the dates. 
But it seems to have been fruitless. Probably the Con- 
quistadores were in the interior beyond their reach. The 
monks returned and stopped a few days in Panama City in 
February, 1532. 

Las Casas and his two companions then went to Leon in 
Nicaragua and founded a monastery. Here he spent two 
years in peaceful missionary work among the natives. He 
again set out for Peru, but his ship was driven back by 
storms and he changed his plan, going again to Spain to 
plead his cause in Court. 

Returning to his monastery in Nicaragua, he found 
troubles nearer at hand which needed his righting. The 
new governor, Rodrigo de Contreras, was beginning his mur- 
derous career. By his vehement opposition Las Casas was 
able to prevent a slave-stealing raid. That he had good 
reason to oppose the governor no one who reads his treatise, 
"Brevissima Relacion de la Destruycion de las Indias," 
can doubt. He cites one instance when, of a body of 4,000 
Indians impressed as carriers in a Nicaraguan expedition, 
only six of them returned alive. The slaves were chained 
together by means of collars about their necks. When one 
of them gave out and could march no farther, the slave- 
drivers would cut off his head and so, releasing the chain, 
allow the gang to go on without loss of time. " Imagine," 
he writes, "what the others must have felt." 

The hostility of the bandit Contreras at last drove him 
out of Nicaragua and he went to Guatemala, where together 


with three brothers, Luis Cancer, Pedro de Angulo and 
Rodrigo de Ladrada, their names deserve mention for they 
were as noble a group of missionaries as the Church has ever 
produced, he founded a monastery. They were fortunate 
in finding in the Bishop of Guatemala a man worthy to be 
their comrade. A man of great scholarship in the classics, 
he had humbled himself to master the Utlatecan language 
of the natives. Las Casas and his monks sat at his feet and 
also learned the language. "It was a delight," an old 
chronicler comments, "to see the bishop, as a master of 
declensions and conjugations in the Indian tongue, teaching 
the good fathers of St. Dominic." In a preface to a tract 
which the bishop wrote in the native tongue, he says that 
perhaps some people may think that it is below the dignity 
of a prelate to occupy himself with such matters "solely 
fitted for the teaching of children," but he adds, "if the 
matter be well considered, it will be seen that it is baser 
not to occupy oneself with such seeming trifles, for such 
teaching is the very marrow of our Holy Faith." 

Some time previous to this, Las Casas had written a 
paper called "De unico vocationis modo." Although it was 
not printed, it was translated from the Latin into Spanish 
and had a wide circulation among the colonists. In it the 
Clerigo developed two propositions. The first was that 
men must be brought to Christ by persuasion and not by 
force. The second was that war against the infidel was not 
justified unless some specific injury had been sustained. 
These do not seem very radical conclusions to-day, but they 
made a sensation when written. It is in fact remarkable 
that the first proposition did not involve Las Casas with the 
Inquisition. The second more nearly concerned the mass 
of the colonists. The Indian slaves died with discour- 
aging rapidity. The only way to keep up the labor sup- 
ply was by incessant conflicts with the native tribes, 


which were generally justified as wars against the unbe- 

The Conquistadores were not only angry at these doc- 
trines of Las Casas, they made sport of them. "Try it," 
they taunted. "Try with words only and without force to 
bring the Indians into the Church." Las Casas was only 
too glad to accept the challenge of these practical men who 
said he was a dreamer. 

The nearby province of Tuzulutan was called by the 
Spaniards "Tierra Guerra"The Land of War. Three 
different expeditions which had set out to subdue this terri- 
tory had returned defeated as the historian Remesal says, 
"Las manos en la cabe<;a" holding their heads in their 

The Clerigo entered into a formal contract with the acting 
governor, Alonzo Maldonado it was signed the 2nd of 
May, 1537 by which he undertook to proselyte this Tierra 
Guerra. If he succeeded in pacifying these tribes, who, as 
they had resisted conquest, were said by the Spaniards to 
be in revolt, and in persuading them to recognize the sover- 
eignty of the King of Spain, the government pledged itself 
to make the territory a direct appendage of the Crown, not 
to give any repartimientos to private persons, and not to 
allow any layman to enter the district for five years. 

One can "easily imagine" to use a favorite phrase of the 
Clerigo the guffaws of derisive laughter with which the 
soldiers heard of this compact. The four Dominican monks 
were to attempt the work which had defeated three armies. 
Well at last they would be rid of this trouble-maker, Las 

For several days the Dominicans retired to their cells for 
severe fasting, mortifications and prayers. And then, hav- 
ing consecrated themselves, they set to work. Their project 
seemed even more fantastic than those of the Clerigo which 




had already failed. They composed a long ballad in the 
Utlatecan language, which, beginning with the Hebrew story 
of the Creation and Fall, contained all the Bible narratives 
and the principal dogmas of the Church. Unfortunately 
this remarkable literary work has been lost. While some of 
the monks labored at versifying the Scheme of Salvation in 
this unfamiliar tongue, others set it to music so that it 
might be accompanied on the crude instruments with which 
the natives were familiar. Undoubtedly they worked in 
many of the accepted melodies of Spain, but they strove to 
follow as nearly as possible the form of chant which the In- 
dians had developed. To realize the proportions of the task 
we must think of some such unfamiliar language and theory 
of music as that of China or Egypt. The missionaries had 
been only a few years in Guatemala; they were old men 
when they came, yet so diligent had been their application 
that they were able to compose poetry and music acceptable 
to the natives! 

Having finished this part of their undertaking, they 
secured the services of four native peddlers who were in the 
habit of making annual trips into the Tierra Guerra. With 
infinite care the monks taught them the words and music. 
They were rehearsed and rehearsed it must be remembered 
that all this was done by word of mouth, for the merchants 
were illiterate until they were letter perfect. 

The most amazing thing about it all is that the work, 
both the composition and teaching, was completed in three 
months! By the middle of August the peddlers were ready 
to start. Las Casas, who combined a knowledge of worldly 
motives with his intense spirituality, had seen to it that 
besides their missionary poem, they were loaded down with 
more attractive packs of goods than any native merchant 
had ever carried before. 

After their emissaries had departed, the four monks, by 


means of relays, kept up almost continual prayer for the 
success of the venture. As far as the limited means of 
communication permitted they had notified all their brothers 
of their momentous undertaking. All throughout the Indias 
the Dominican Order was uniting in fervent prayer for its 

And it did succeed. 

The peddlers arrived safely at the village of the cacique and 
during the first day drove a thriving trade with their Spanish 
knives and hatchets and beads. At night, before the camp- 
fire, where, as is always the custom among savage people, 
the strangers were expected to entertain their hosts with 
song or story, they asked for instruments and chanted the 
wonderful story of the Christ. The strange music on the 
whole like their own, but sometimes breaking out into an 
unfamiliar melody attracted the villagers. They sat in- 
tent, until the poem was finished. 

For seven days they stayed in the village and every night 
were invited to repeat their bizarre sermon. The cacique 
was deeply interested and asked many questions about the 
strange poem. The peddlers, being ignorant men, said they 
knew nothing except what they had heard. The poem 
had come to them from certain Spaniards, who were different 
from all others whose heads were shaven, who wore strange 
robes of black and white, who ate no meat, had no desire for 
gold and who lived a life of abstinence. Who, instead of 
rioting with women and wine, spent their days and nights 
singing praises to the God of this poem, and whose only in- 
terest was to teach their faith to all men. 

The upshot of it was that the cacique sent his brother 
back with the peddlers to see if such strange things could be 
true. Above all he told his envoy to watch these padres 
and see if they fought for gold and silver like the other 
Spaniards and had slave women in their houses. 


"It can easily be imagined," Las Casas writes, "with what 
joy the monks of St. Dominic received this savage ambas- 
sador." So favorable an impression did their piety make 
on him that he asked one of them to return with him to 
preach to his brother the cacique and the people. Father 
Luis Cancer was chosen for this mission. 

There is no space here to trace all the steps by which these 
four monks, from this beginning, converted the natives of 
"The Land of War." Having brought peace and prosperity 
to Tuzulutlan, they learned other native languages and 
gradually extended their sway to the neighboring tribes. 

In this little corner of Guatemala, alone in all the vast 
Spanish colonies, the Indians learned to think of the word 
" Christian" as meaning something different from "Devil." 

While Las Casas was in "The Land of War," teaching its 
people of the Prince of Peace and instructing them in the 
ways of. material prosperity, unexpected aid came from the 
Court of Rome. Pope Paul III (Alexander Farnese) issued 
his Bull "Euntes docete omnes gentes," in which he said that 
the Indians were to be considered "as veritable men not 
only capable of receiving the Christian faith, but, as we 
have learnt, most ready to embrace it." He followed this 
brief by a letter to the Archbishop of Toledo, the primate of 
Spain, in which he wrote: 

"It has come to our knowledge that our dearest son in 
Christ, Charles, the ever august emperor of the Romans, 
king of Castille and Leon, in order to repress those who, 
boiling over with cupidity, bear an inhuman mind against 
the human race, has by public edict forbidden all his sub- 
jects from making slaves of the Western and Southern 
Indians, or depriving them of their goods." 

He closed this letter with a sentence of absolute excom- 
munication against all who should make slaves of the 


The delight of Las Casas on the receipt of these papal 
letters can " easily be imagined." He translated them into 
Spanish and saw that they were widely circulated in the 

In 1539 Las Casas went to Spain to plead for the send- 
ing of more missionaries to Guatemala. He was as usual 
favorably received, and his requests were granted. He was 
detained at the Court to assist in the deliberations of the 
Council of the Indies. It was during this time that he 
wrote two of his most important treatises, "The Destruc- 
tion of the Indies," and his even more important "Veynte 
Razones," in which he gives twenty reasons to prove that 
the system of repartimientos was iniquitous and un-Chris- 

These pamphlets and his verbal arguments before the 
council resulted in the framing of "The New Laws," which, 
while the pretext for Gonzalo Pizarro's rebellion in Peru 
and of insurrections in other places, on the whole were en- 
forceable and succeeded in preventing the absolute extermi- 
nation of the Indians. 

"The New Laws," writes Helps, "had been a signal 
triumph for Las Casas. Without him, without his untiring 
energy and singular influence over those whom he came 
near, these laws would not have been enacted. The mere 
bodily fatigue which he endured was such as hardly any 
man of his time, not a conqueror, had encountered. He 
had crossed the ocean twelve times. Four times he had 
made his way into Germany, to see the emperor. Had a 
record been kept of his wanderings, such as that which 
exists of the journeys of Charles the Fifth, it would have 
shown that Las Casas had led a much more active life than 
even that energetic monarch. Moreover, the journeyings 
of Las Casas were often made with all the inconvenience 
of poverty." 


In recognition of his untiring public service, the emperor 
offered him the bishopric of Cusco, in Peru. For many 
reasons, principally a distaste for lofty positions, the Clerigo 
refused this, the richest see in America. But after much 
urging he accepted the episcopal office in the newly con- 
quered province of Chiapa, a district near the scene of his 
successful labors in the Tierra Guerra of Guatemala. He 
was consecrated in Seville and on the 4th of July, 1544, he 
sailed, with forty-five Dominican monks, to proselyte his 
frontier diocese. 

He was exceedingly ill-received when he stopped in Santo 
Domingo. Unquestionably he was the best hated man in 
the New World. Imagine Wendell Phillips in Richmond, 
just after Appomattox Court House. For Las Casas had 
won his long fight against greed. The maltreatment of the 
Indians of course continued, but it was no longer legal. 
The Bishop of Chiapa was now seventy years old. He had 
commenced his mission at forty. The thirty years of de- 
voted agitation had resulted in the pope's bull which pro- 
nounced slavery un-Christian and the New Laws which 
made it illegal. All his long journey to Ciudad Real, the 
capital of Chiapa, was a Via Crucis. In some places he 
was stoned. 

"The hatred to Las Casas," writes Sir Arthur Helps, 
" throughout the New World, amounted to a passion. 
Letters were written to the residents in Chiapa, expressing 
pity for them as having met the greatest misfortune that 
could occur to them, in being placed under such a bishop. 
They did not name him, but spoke of him as 'That Devil 
who has come to you for a bishop.' The following is an 
extract from one of these letters. 'We say here, that very 
great must be the sins of your country, when God chastises 
it with such a scourge as sending that Antichrist for a 


Arrived at his new post the godly bishop had the audacity 
to take the pope's bull literally. He refused absolution to 
all Spaniards who held slaves. The officials not enforcing 
the laws to suit him, he journeyed to Honduras to lay the 
case before the Audiencia. Unable to get redress he threat- 
ened to excommunicate the judges if they refused to do their 
duty. He tells how one of them whose conscience troubled 
him mightily lost his temper and heaped abuse on him in 
court. " You are a scoundrel," he shouted, " an evil man, a 
bad monk, a worse bishop a shameless scoundrel you 
ought to be flogged." Las Casas replied, "The Lord will 
punish me for my sins, which are many." 

By his fearless persistence he at last forced the Audiencia 
to send an officer to Chiapa to enforce the laws. When the 
inhabitants of Ciudad Real heard of the bishop's triumph 
they determined to resist his entry into the city. 

Las Casas writes that although he came "unguarded and 
on foot, with only a stick in his hand, and a breviary in his 
girdle," they strapped on their armor and loaded their 

On the way he stopped at a Dominican monastery. The 
monks urged him to turn back, saying that the infuriated 
populace would surely kill him. But he insisted on going 

"For," he said "if I do not go to Ciudad Real, I banish 
myself from my church; and it will be said of me, with 
much reason, 'The wicked fleeth; and no man pursueth.' 
. . . If I do not endeavour to enter my church, of whom 
shall I have to complain to the king, or to the pope, as having 
thrust me out of it? Are my adversaries so bitter against 
me that the first word will be a deadly thrust through my 
heart, without giving me the chance of soothing them? In 
conclusion, reverend fathers, I am resolved, trusting in the 
mercy of God and in your holy prayers, to set out for my 


diocese. To tarry here, or to go elsewhere, has all the in- 
conveniences which have just been stated." 

He indeed had a stormy reception. But his simple man- 
ner prevailed over the mob. When one of them reviled 
him, he said, "I will not answer you for your insults are 
addressed, not to me, but to God." By his fearless non- 
resistance he won the ascendency over his flock and after a 
few hours of turbulence they came to him on their knees, 
asking for pardon. 

The Peruvian Rebellion had forced the emperor to reduce 
the rigor of the "New Laws." All Spaniards who held 
repartimientos were to be allowed to keep them during their 
lives, but no new grants were to be made. This let-up was 
undoubtedly a severe disappointment to Las Casas. But 
although he seemed to have been defeated, his work bore, 
in reality, marvellous fruit. Although temporarily revived, 
the brutal system had received its death blow. In 1547, 
he resigned from his bishopric and returned to Spain where 
he felt that he could have greater influence in Indian affairs. 

About this time a learned doctor of laws, Juan Gine*s 
Sepulveda, wrote a treatise, "De Justis Belli Causis." It 
was an elaborate argument in favor of Indian slavery. Las 
Casas at once commenced a polemical discussion with him. 
In 1550, when he was seventy-six years old, he met Sepulveda 
in an open debate before the emperor. For five consecutive 
days he read an argument which was afterwards printed 
under the title "Historia Apolige'tica." A referee condensed 
this long treatise into twelve propositions, to which Sepul- 
veda returned twelve counter-propositions. Las Casas was 
allowed to present twelve answers. One selection from his 
argument will do as a sample of the whole disputation. 

To Sepulveda's proposition in favor of the right of con- 
quest, Las Casas replied: 

"The doctor founds these rights upon our superiority in 


arms, and upon our having more bodily strength than the 
Indians. This is simply to place our kings in the position 
of tyrants. The right of those kings rests upon their 
extension of the Gospel in the New World, and their good 
government of the Indian nations. These duties they 
would be bound to fulfil even at their own expense; much 
more so considering the treasures they have received from 
the Indies. To deny this doctrine is to flatter and deceive 
our monarchs, and to put their salvation in peril. The doc- 
tor perverts the natural order of things, making the means 
the end, and what is accessory the principal. The acces- 
sory is temporal advantage: the principal, the preaching of 
the true faith. He who is ignorant of this, small is his 
knowledge; and he who denies it, is no more of a Christian 
than Mahomet was." 

The result of the controversy was a Scotch verdict; the 
learned jury concurred in the opinions of Sepulveda, but the 
king and his councillors, convinced by the eloquent logic of 
Las Casas, prohibited the circulation of the doctor's book in 
the colonies. In a private letter Sepulveda wrote of his aged 
opponent as "most subtile, most vigilant, and most fluent, 
compared with whom Ulysses of Homer was a tongue-tied 

The reclining years of the Apostle to the Indians were 
spent in writing. Besides many controversial treatises, he 
produced a monumental history of the Discovery and Con- 
quest. When ninety years old he published a treatise on 
Peru one of the most forceful things which ever came from 
his pen. This was apparently his last literary work. But 
two years later, hearing from the Dominican Fathers in 
Guatemala of some abuses in the administration of justice, 
he left his monastery in Valladolid and travelled to Madrid. 
So ably did he present the matter to the king that the neces- 
sary reforms were granted. 


Almost inmediately after this last pilgrimage in behalf 
of his beloved Indians, while still in Madrid, he fell sick and 
in July, 1566, died at the age of ninety-two. 

Sir Arthur Helps, the eminent historian of the Conquest 
and a biographer of Las Casas, sums up his character in 
these paragraphs: 

"The life of Las Casas appears to me one of the most in- 
teresting, indeed I may say the most interesting, of all those 
that I have ever studied; and I think it is more than the nat- 
ural prejudice of a writer for his hero, that inclines me to 
look upon him as one of the most remarkable personages 
that has ever appeared in history. It is well known that 
he has ever been put in the foremost rank of philanthropists; 
but he had other qualifications which were also extraordinary. 
He was not a mere philanthropist, possessed only with one 
idea. He had one of those large minds which take an in- 
terest in everything. As an historian, a man of letters, a 
colonist, a missionary, a theologian, an active ruler in the 
Church, a man of business, and an observer of natural his- 
tory and science, he holds a very high position amongst the 
notable men of his own age. The ways, the customs, the 
religion, the policy, the laws, of the new people whom he 
saw, the new animals, the new trees, the new herbs, were all 
observed and chronicled by him. 

"In an age eminently superstitious, he was entirely devoid 
of superstition. At a period when the most extravagant 
ideas as to the divine rights of kings prevailed, he took 
occasion to remind kings themselves to their faces, that they 
are only permitted to govern for the good of the people. 

"At a period when brute force was universally appealed 
to in all matters, but more especially in those that pertained 
to religion, he contended before juntas and royal councils 
that missionary enterprise is a thing that should stand inde- 
pendent of all military support; that a missionary should 


go forth with his life in his hand, relying only on the pro- 
tection that God will vouchsafe him, and depending neither 
upon civil nor military assistance. In fact, his works should, 
even in the present day, form the best manual extant for 
missionaries. . . . 

"He lived in most stirring times; he was associated with 
the greatest personages of his day; and he had the privilege 
of taking part in the discovery and colonization of a new 

"Eloquent, devoted, charitable, fervent, sometimes too 
fervent, yet very skilful in managing men, he will doubtless 
remind the reader of his prototype, Saint Paul; and it was 
very fitting that he should have been called, as he was, the 
'Apostle of the Indies.' 

"Notwithstanding our experience, largely confirmed by 
history, of the ingenuity often manifested in neglecting to 
confer honour upon those who most deserve it, one cannot 
help wondering that the Romish Church never thought of 
enrolling Las Casas as a saint, amongst such fellow-labourers 
as Saint Charles of Borromeo, or Saint Francis of Assisi." 



ONE of the most interesting phases in the history of the 
Isthmus is the sudden development of an immense trade. 
For about a century the rough trail from Panama City across 
to the Atlantic towns of Nombre de Dios and Puerto Bello 
was the richest trade route in the world. 

Even after the wrought gold had been stripped from the 
temples and palaces of the Incas, the rich silver mines of 
Potosi continued to produce great wealth. Dye woods from 
the west coast of Central America furnished also a valuable 
merchandise. There were pearls from the islands and many 
kinds of precious stones from the Andes. In exchange for 
this home-going wealth many commodities had to be brought 
out for the colonists. The commerce of Panama even crossed 
the Pacific. In the third volume of the "Hakluyt Voyages" 
is given a letter from a merchant which is dated from Panama, 
August 28th, 1590: 

"Here I haue remained these 20 dayes, till the shippes goe 
for the Philipinas. My meaning is to carie my commodities 
thither: for it is constantly reported, that for every hundred 
ducats a man shall get 600 ducats cleerely. We must stay 
here till it be Christmasse. For in August, September, 
October and November is it winter here and extreme foule 
weather upon this coast of Peru, and not nauigable to goe to 
the Philipinas, nor any place else in the South sea. So that 
at Christmasse the shipes begin to set on their voyage for 
those places." 



This letter indicates a considerable traffic with the Spice 
Islands and the Orient via Panama. In the same year more 
than ninety ships from Spain called at the Atlantic ports, 
an average of almost two ships a week. Even to-day that 
would indicate a large commerce. 

But Spain held her colonial business in the tightest kind 
of a monopoly. No outsiders were to be allowed to share in 
it. Mr. Haring, in his "The Buccaneers in the West Indies 
in the XVII Century," which, in spite of its thrilling title, 
is a doctor's thesis, gives much interesting information about 
this commercial development. 

"The first means adopted by the northern maritime nations 
to appropriate to themselves a share of the riches of the 
New World was open, semi-piratical attack upon the Span- 
ish argosies returning from those distant El Dorados. The 
success of the Norman and Breton corsairs, for it was the 
French, not the English, who started the game, gradually 
forced upon the Spaniards, as a means of protection, the 
establishment of great merchant fleets sailing periodically at 
long intervals and accompanied by powerful convoys. Dur- 
ing the first half of the sixteenth century any ship which had 
fulfilled the conditions required for engaging in American 
commerce was allowed to depart alone and at any time of 
the year. From about 1526, however, merchant vessels were 
ordered to sail together, and by a cedula of July, 1561, the 
system of fleets was made permanent and obligatory. This 
decree prohibited any ship from sailing alone to America 
from Cadiz or San Lucar on pain of forfeiture of ship and 
cargo. Two fleets were organized each year, one for Terra 
Firma going to Cartagena and Porto Bello, the other designed 
for the port of San Juan d'Uloa (Vera Cruz) in New Spain. 
The latter, called the Flota, was commanded by an "al- 
mirante," and sailed for Mexico in the early summer so as 
to avoid the hurricane season and the "northers" of the 


Mexican Gulf. The former, usually called the galeones 
(anglice "galleons")? was commanded by a "general," and 
sailed from Spain earlier in the year, between January and 
March. If it departed in March, it usually wintered in 
Havana, and returned with the Flota in the following spring. 
Sometimes the two fleets sailed together and separated at 
Guadaloupe, Deseada or another of the Leeward Islands. 

"The galleons generally consisted of from five to eight 
war-vessels carrying from forty to fifty guns, together with 
several smaller, faster boats called 'patchers,' and a fleet of 
merchantmen varying in number in different years. In the 
time of Philip II often as many as forty ships supplied Car- 
tagena and Porto Bello, but in succeeding reigns, although 
the population of the Indies was rapidly increasing, American 
commerce fell off so sadly that eight or ten were sufficient 
for the trade of South and Central America. The general 
of the galleons, on his departure, received from the Council 
of the Indies three sealed packets. The first, opened at the 
Canaries, contained the name of the island in the West Indies 
at which the fleet was first to call. The second was un- 
sealed after the galleons arrived at Cartagena, and contained 
instructions for the fleet to return in the same year or to 
winter in America. In the third, left unopened until the 
fleet emerged from the Bahama Channel on the homeward 
voyage, were orders for the route to the Azores and the 
islands they should touch in passing, usually Corvo and 
Flores or Santa Maria. . . . 

"The fleet reached Cartagena ordinarily about two months 
after its departure from Cadiz. On its arrival, the general 
forwarded the news to Porto Bello, together with the packets 
destined for the viceroy at Lima. From Porto Bello a 
courier hastened across the Isthmus to the President of 
Panama, who spread the advice amongst the merchants in 
his jurisdiction, and, at the same time, sent a dispatch boat 


to Payta, in Peru. The general of the galleons, meanwhile, 
was also sending a courier overland to Lima, and another to 
Santa Fe, the capital of the interior province of New Grenada, 
whence runners carried to Popayan, Antioquia, Margarita, 
and adjacent provinces, the news of his arrival. The 
galleons were instructed to remain at Cartagena only a 
month, but bribes from the merchants generally made it their 
interest to linger for fifty or sixty days. To Cartagena came 
the gold and emeralds of New Grenada, the pearls of Mar- 
garita and Rancherias, and the indigo, tobacco, cocoa and 
other products of the Venezuelan coast. The merchants of 
Guatemala, likewise, shipped their commodities to Cartagena 
by way of Lake Nicaragua and San Juan river, for they feared 
to send goods across the Gulf of Honduras to Havana, be- 
cause of the French and English buccaneers hanging about 
Cape San Antonio. Meanwhile the viceroy at Lima, on 
receipt of his letters, ordered the Armada of the South Sea 
to prepare to sail, and sent word south to Chili and through- 
out the province of Peru from Las Charces to Quito, to 
forward the King's revenues for shipment to Panama. 
Within less than a fortnight all was in readiness. The 
Armada, carrying a considerable treasure, sailed from Callao 
and, touching at Payta, was joined by the Navio del Oro 
(golden ship), which carried the gold from the province of 
Quito and adjacent districts. While the galleons were ap- 
proaching Porto Bello the South Sea fleet arrived before 
Panama, and the merchants of Chili and Peru began to 
transfer their merchandise on mules across the high back 
of the Isthmus. 

"Then began the famous fair of Porto Bello. The town, 
whose permanent population was very small and composed 
mostly of negroes and mulattoes, was suddenly called upon 
to accommodate an enormous crowd of merchants, soldiers 
and seamen. Food and shelter were to be had only at 


extraordinary prices. . . . Merchants gave as much as 
1,000 crowns for a moderate-sized shop in which to sell their 
commodities. Owing to overcrowding, bad sanitation, and 
an extremely unhealthy climate, the place became an 
open grave, ready to swallow all who resorted there. In 
1637, during the fifteen days that the galleons remained at 
Porto Bello, 500 men died of sickness. Meanwhile, day by 
day, the mule-trains from Panama were winding their way 
into the town. . . . While the treasure of the King of 
Spain was being transferred to the galleons in the harbor, 
the merchants were making their trade. There was little 
liberty, however, in commercial transactions, for the prices 
were fixed and published beforehand, and when negotiations 
began exchange was purely mechanical. The fair, which was 
supposed to be open for forty days, was in later times 
generally completed in ten or twelve. At the beginning of 
the eighteenth century the volume of business transacted 
was estimated to amount to thirty or forty million pounds 

Fortunately we have a good description of the Isthmus 
during the days of its commercial prosperity from the pen 
of an Englishman. The Spanish government carried its 
policy of excluding foreigners from the Indies to such an 
extent that almost no one but Spaniards saw the colonial 
cities except by stealth or as conquerors. But in the quaint 
old volume "The English- American, his Travail by Sea and 
Land, or a new Survey of the West Indies ... As also 
of his strange and wonderful Conversion and Calling from 
those remote Parts to his Native Country By the true and 
painful Endeavours of Thomas Gage, now Preacher of the 
Word of God at Acris in the County of Kent" we get a most 
interesting inside view. Thomas Gage had a rare oppor- 
tunity to visit the colonies and he had an equally rare gift 
of description. 


Born in England, he had been taken to the Continent at 
an early age and was raised in the Catholic faith. He 
entered the priesthood and in that capacity went to the 
Indies. Passing through Mexico, he at last settled in 

Frangois Coreal, who visited the colonies as a smuggler 
and has left a very vivacious account of his adventures, 
wrote : 

"F avouie qu'il y a des Missionaires de bonne foi, qui 
ont a coeur la gloire de Dieu & le salut des ames des Idolatres. 
Ceux-la sont en petit nombre. Tous les autres cherchent 
dans les conversions P augmentation de leurs revenus & leurs 
profit temporal." 

Thomas Gage was of the "petit nombre" "de bonne foi." 
With true missionary zeal he had followed in the footsteps 
of Las Casas and mastered the native dialects. He seems 
to have known very little about Protestantism, but there 
alone in the Central American jungle he had a little Reforma- 
tion all by himself. Full of doubts about some of the dogmas 
he was expected to teach, he resolved to go to Rome, and, 
at the fountain head of his religion, find the truth. 

But he had become so valuable to his superiors as an 
interpreter that they would not grant him permission to 
leave. For some months with great travail of soul he 
remained at his post. Then he ran away. He made his 
way on foot to the Pacific coast, after almost incredible 
adventures; he got on shipboard in the Golfo de Salina, 
"hoping to have been at Panama within five or six days. 
But as often before we had been crossed, so likewise in this 
short passage wee were striving with the Wind, Sea and Cor- 
rientes, as they are called (which are swift streams as of 
a River) foure full weeks." 

From Panama he crossed to Puerto Bello, and finally got 
ship for Europe. He left the Catholic Church and settled 


in England. He dedicated his book, which was published 
in 1648, to "His Excellency S r Thomas Fairfax, Knight, 
Lord Fairfax of Cameron, Captain-General of the Parlia- 
ment's Army; and of all their Forces in England and the 
Dominion of Wales." 

It is a remarkable book, the most interesting description 
of the Indies I have found. Side by side he records shrewd, 
almost scientific, observations of nature and the customs of 
the Indians and gives vivid narrative of his manifold ad- 
ventures and hair-breadth escapes. Interwoven through it 
are theological discussions, and fascinating discourses they 
are, for they are illumined by the soul-tragedy of this honest, 
simple man, struggling desperately towards what he thought 
to be salvation. 

But the book interests us especially here, as it contains 
the one reliable account which was written in our own lan- 
guage of Panama and Puerto Bello in the Days of the Great 
Trade. I have taken a few liberties with the arrangement 
of his text to avoid tedious repetitions : 

"Castella del Oro is situated in the very Isthmus, and is 
not very populous by reason of the unhealthfulness of the 
aire, and noisome savour of the standing pooles. The chief 
places belonging to the Spaniards, are first Theonimay or 
Nombre de Dios on the East, the second which is six leagues 
from Nombre de Dios is Portobel, now chiefly inhabited by 
Spaniards and Mulattoes and Black-mores, and Nombre de 
Dios almost forsaken by reason of its unhealthfulnesse. . . 
As I have before observed, the aire being here very un- 
healthful, the King of Spain in the yeare 1584 commanded 
that the houses ... be pulled downe and to be rebuild 
in a more healthy and convenient place : which was performed 
in ... Portobel. . . . 

"The ships which were wont to anchor in Nombre de Dios, 
and there take in the King's treasure which is yeerly brought 


from Peru to Panama, and from thence to the North Sea, 
now harbour themselves in Portobel; which signify eth 
... a faire and goodly Haven, for so indeed it is, and well 
fortified at the entrance with three Castles which can reach 
and command one another . . . 

"The third and chief e place belonging to the Spaniards in 
Castilla del Oro is Panama . . . upon the South Sea." 

After describing his life in the Guatemalan monastery, 
his escape to the Golfo de Salina, and the "foure full weeks" 
of desperate storms at sea he tells how at last they cast 
anchor off the old town of Panama. 

"I, being now well strengthened made no stay in that 
frigot . . . but went to land, and betook myself to 
the Cloister of the Dominicans, where I stayed almost fifteen 
daies, viewing and reviewing the City; which is governed like 
Guatemala by a President and six Judges, and a Court of 
Chancery, and is a Bishops sea. It hath more strength 
towards the South Sea, than any other Port which on that 
side I hath seen, and some Ordinances planted for defence 
of it; but the houses are of the least strength of any place that 
I had entred in; for lime and stone is hard to come by, and 
therefore for that reason, and for the great heat there, most 
of the houses are built of timber and bords; the President's 
house, nay the best Church walls are but bords, which serve 
for stone and bricke, and for tiles to cover the roof. The heat 
is so extraordinary that a linnen cut doublet, with some 
light stuffe or taffetie breeches is the common cloathing of 
the inhabitants. Fish, fruit and herbage for sallets is more 
plentifull there than flesh ; the coole water of the Coco is the 
womens best drinke, though Chocolate also and much wine 
from Peru be very abounding. The Spaniards are in this 
city much given to sinne, loosenesse and venery ... It 
is held to be one of the richest places in all America, having 
by land and by the river Chiagre (Chagres) commerce with 


the North Sea, and by the South, trading with all Peru, 
East Indies, Mexico and Honduras. Thither is brought 
the chief treasure of Peru in two or three great ships, which 
lie at anchor at Puerto Perico some three leagues from the 
City ... It consisteth of some five thousand in- 
habitants, and maintaineth at least eight Cloisters of Nuns 
and Friars. I feared much the heats, and therefore made 
as much haste out of it as I could." 

It was in 1637 that Gage made this visit to Panama. An 
earlier description of the city was translated into English 
and published by Hakluyt: 

"Relation of the ports, harbors, forts, and cities in the 
West Indies which have been surveied, edified, finished, 
made and mended, with those which have been builded, in a 
certaine survey by the king of Spaine, his direction and com- 
mandment: Written by Baptista Antonio, surveyor in those 
parts for the said King. Anno 1587." 

After Sir Francis Drake's raids, this man Baptista Antonio 
was sent out to advise the King about fortifying his colonial 
possessions. The following passages are from his report: 

"Panama is the principall citie of this Dioces: it lieth 
18. leagues from Nombre de Dios on the South sea, and 
standeth in 9. degrees. There are 3. Monasteries in this 
said city of fryers, the one is of Dominicks, the other is of 
Augustines, and the third is of S. Francis fryers: also there 
is a College of Jesuits, and the royall audience or chancery is 
kept in this citie. 

"This citie is situated hard by the sea side on a sandy 
bay: the one side of this citie is environed with the sea, and 
on the other side it is enclosed with the arme of the sea 
which runneth up into the land 1000. yards. 

"This citie hath three hundred and fiftie houses, all built 
of timber, and there are sixe hundred dwellers and eight 
hundred souldiers with the townesmen, and foure hundred 


Negros of Guyney, and some of them are freemen : and there 
is another towne which is called Santa Cruz la Real of 
Negros Simerons, and most of them are imployed in your 
majesties service, and they are 100. in number, and this 
towne is a league from this citie upon a great rivers side, 
which is a league from the sea right over against the harbour 
of Periocos. But there is no trust nor confidence in any of 
these Negros, and therefore we must take heede and beware 
of them, for they are our mortall enemies. . . . 

"Upon the East side of this citie there are your majesties 
royall houses builded upon a rocke joyning hard to the Sea 
side, and they doe as well leane towards the sea as the land. 
The royall audience or chancerie is kept here in these houses, 
and likewise the prison. And in this place all your majesties 
treasure is kept. There dwelleth in these houses your 
majesties Treasurer, the Lord President, and 3. Judges, and 
master Atturney. All these doe dwell in these houses, and 
the rest of your majesties officers: which are sixe houses 
beside those of the Lord President, the which are all dwelling 
houses, and all ad joyning together one by another along upon 
the rockes. And they are builded all of timber and bourdes, 
as the other houses are. So where the prison standeth and 
the great hall, these two places may bee very well fortified, 
because they serve so fitly for the purpose, by reason 
they are builded towardes the sea. . . . 

"And forasmuch as the most part of these people are 
marchants, they will not fight, but onely keepe their owne 
persons in safetie, and save their goods; as it hath bene sene 
heretofore in other places of these Indies. 

"So if it will please your majesty to cause these houses 
to bee strongly fortified, considering it standeth in a very 
good place if any sudden alarms shoulde happen, then the 
citizens with their goods may get themselves to this place, 
and so escape the terrour of the enemy: and so this will be a 


good securitie for all the treasure which doth come from 
Peru. . . . 

"Here in this harbor are alwayes 10 to 12 barks of 60 or 
50 tunnes apiece, which do belong to this harbor." 

It will be seen by a comparison of the two quotations how 
rapidly the city had grown from 1,900, including the "sime- 
rons, ' ? to 5,000 in fifty years. Apparently Gage is in error 
in saying that even the best church was built of wood, for 
the Cathedral of St. Anastasius must have been well under 
way, if not already completed, when he wrote. 

Esquemelin, in describing the city as it was in 1671, writes: 

"There belonged to this city (which is also the head of a 
bishopric) eight monasteries, whereof seven were for men 
and one for women; two stately churches and one hospital. 
The churches and monasteries were all richly adorned with 
altar-pieces and paintings, huge quantity of gold and silver, 
with other precious things; . . . Besides which orna- 
ments, here were to be seen two thousand houses of mag- 
nificent and prodigious building, being all of the greatest part 
inhabited by merchants of that country, who are vastly 
rich. For the rest of the inhabitants of lesser quality and 
tradesmen, this city contained five thousand houses more. 
Here were also great numbers of stables, which served for 
the horses and mules, that carry all the plate, belonging as 
well unto the King of Spain as to private men, towards the 
coast of the North Sea. The neighbouring fields belonging 
to this city are all cultivated and fertile plantations, and 
pleasant gardens, which afford delicious prospects unto the 
inhabitants the whole year long." 

These are the three best accounts of the old city of Panama 
by people whom we know to be giving first-hand accounts. 

There is some doubt as to whether Frangois Coreal saw 
the city before Morgan's Raid. But having first come to the 
Indies in 1666, five years before the destruction of the place, 


he must at least have received his information from people 
who had been there. He writes : 

"This city had seven or eight thousand houses, most of 
which were of wood and thatch. The streets were quite 
beautiful, large and regular. The great merchants occupied 
the most beautiful houses of the city and nothing was lacking 
in the magnificence of these gentlemen. There were eight 
convents, a beautiful Cathedral Church and a Hospital 
maintained by nuns. The Bishop was, as is still the case, 
suffragant to the Archbishop of Lima and Primate of Tierra 
Firme. The fields there were well cultivated. The suburbs 
of the city were decorated by beautiful gardens and farms. 
. . . As all the commerce of Chili and Peru has its 
terminal port at Panama, the stores of the city are always 
filled and the harbor is never without some ships." 

One must make certain allowances for the imagination of 
these early chroniclers. With equal seriousness they often 
tell of Griffins and Sea Monsters. But on the whole they 
were amazingly accurate in their descriptions of what they 
actually saw. 

Mr. Charles Francis Adams recently read a paper before 
the Massachusetts Historical Society (Proceedings for May, 
1911) in which he attempts to demolish the "Myth" of the 
grandeur of old Panama City. He quotes several rather 
exuberant descriptions of the place from modern writers and 
picks them to pieces. For example, gives the following 
from a recent book by Mr. Forbes-Lindsay : 

"In its palmy days Old Panama was the seat of wealth and 
splendor such as could be found nowhere else in the world 
than the capitals of the Orient. At the court of the Governor 
gathered noblemen and ladies of gentle birth. There were 
upwards of seven thousand houses in the place, many of them 
being spacious and splendidly furnished mansions. The 
monasteries, convents and other ecclesiastical edifices were 


numerous, and contained vast amounts of treasure in their 
vaults. There were fine public buildings devoted to various 
purposes, among them pretentious stables in which were 
housed the ' King's horses.' " 

And makes this comment on it: 

"But, as a matter of fact, a remark might here not im- 
properly be interjected to the effect that the horses in ques- 
tion were in reality mules, and the stables Latin-American 

He gives in extenso the report of Baptista Antonio, from 
which I have quoted, which, by the way, was written nearly 
a century before the burning of the city. On the basis of 
this account and his personal visits to the ruins, he concludes : 

"In the first place, the topography of the site and sur- 
roundings is as Antonio described it four centuries ago; 
but the foundations and ruins still remaining of the struc- 
tures fortifications, ways, bridges and edifices are at 
variance with the statement that that town, as such, was ever 
of considerable size. Limited to an area of at most two 
hundred and fifty to three hundred acres, the ruins now re- 
maining and the scattered fragments of tile show conclusively 
that Panama Viejo never could have contained within its 
limits either the buildings and dwellings, or the avenues, 
streets and ways described. Both the public edifices and the 
private houses were limited in size of modest dimensions, as 
we would phrase it and, apparently, packed closely to- 
gether. In place of the fifty thousand sometimes credited 
to them, they never, on any reasonable estimate, could have 
sufficed to accommodate a population in excess of seven 
thousand. Ten thousand would be a maximum. The 
foundations of 'the royal houses builded upon a rock' are 
still there; so also those of the 'audience or chancerie,' as 
likewise the prison; all 'adjoining together one by another 
along upon the rocks.' But those foundations afford proof 


positive of the dimensions of the superstructures. By their 
proximity to each other, also, they show that there never 
could have been any 'broad streets' or wide thoroughfares 
in the town or approaching it; and the bridge, of which we 
are informed that 'two or three piers' only remain, never 
had but a single span, both short and narrow, thrown across 
a contemptible mud-creek, almost devoid of water in the dry 
season or at low tide; and that single span a very pic- 
turesque one, by the way is still there. That a great store of 
wealth for those days annually passed through Old Panama, 
there can be no question. The place, was, however, merely a 
channel; and, after a fairly close inspection, I do not hesitate 
to repeat that the stories of its art, its population and its 
treasures generally of its size and splendor constitute 
about as baseless an historic fabric as the legions that fought 
at Marathon or the myriads that followed Xerxes. Old Pan- 
ama, as seen through the imagination of modern investiga- 
tors, bears, I believe, just as much resemblance to the six- 
teenth century reality as Francis Drake's Golden Hind would 
bear to a present-day Atlantic liner, say the Lusitania." 

No one can doubt the justice of much of this. But after 
all Mr. Adams is attacking a straw man of his own creation. 
No one who has written of " broad streets" in the old 
metropolis meant to compare them to the Champs Elysees. 
Nor is it contended that the houses were of magnificent 
proportion in comparison with St. Peter's. 

I am, however, inclined to question his conclusion when 
he so positively limits the extent of the city. The site to-day 
is overgrown with a dense tangle of tropical vegetation. It 
would take amazing activity, and a host of machetemen 
to reach in two short visits definite conclusions on this 
point. Within less than a century after its abandonment, 
Francois Coreal visited the site of Nombre de Dios, and 
"de son ancienne magnificence" he writes he could find 


nothing but its name. More than twice that time has 
passed since Panama Viejo was deserted. Only the ruins 
of some of the stone structures are visible above the ground. 
Excavations into the sub-soil might possibly if they were 
extensive enough definitely determine the limits of the 
old town. And until archaeologists have seriously in- 
vestigated the matter we can not put much weight on the 
opinions of chance travellers as to how far a city of frame 
houses, which decay so rapidly in the Tropics, extended. 

Judged by the New York or London of to-day old Panama 
was an insignificant place. But there were very few cities 
of Europe which in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries 
had streets so broad and regular. There was certainly none 
in the New World which could compare with it for com- 
merce or wealth. It is easier to believe that the court 
of the Governor was a magnificent medieval pageant of high 
colors, fine Oriental silks and barbaric jewelry than to con- 
ceive of the place through which so much wealth passed 
as a contemptible group of hovels. Although, in our own day, 
the best houses of the Klondike towns were frame shacks, 
the courtesans wore gowns from Paris. And the ruined, 
but stately tower of the Cathedral of St. Anastasius shows 
beyond dispute that the metropolis of the Americas had 
reached a stage of civilization far in advance of an Alaskan 
mining camp. 

After all, grandeur is a relative term, and no one who 
speaks of the sordid Italian rapscallion as "The Magnificent 
Borgia" can deny the same adjective to the "muy leal y muy 
noble Ciudad de Panama." 

Gage says, when he had decided to leave Panama: "I 
had my choice of company by land and water to Portobel. 
But considering the hardnesse of the mountaines by land, 
I resolved to goe by the river Chiagre; and so at midnight 
I set out from Panama to Venta de Cruzes, which is ten or 


twelve leagues from it. The way is thither very plaine for 
the most part, and pleasant in the morning and evening. 

" Before ten of the clock, we got to Venta de Cruzes, where 
lived none but Mulatto's and Black-mores, who belong unto 
the flat-boat es that carry the merchandize to Portobel. 
There I had very good entertainment by the people, who 
desired me to preach unto them the next Sabbath day and 
gave me twenty Crownes for my Sermon, and Procession. 
After five days of my abode there, the boats set out, which 
were much stopped in their passage downe the river; for in 
some places we found the water very low, so that the boats ran 
upon the gravell;from whence with poles and the strength of 
the Black-mores they were to be lifted off againe . . . Had 
not it pleased God to send us after the first week plentifull 
raine, which made the water to run downe from the mountains 
and fill the river (which otherwise of itself is very shallow) we 
might have had a tedious and long passage; but after twelve 
days we got to sea, and at the point landed at the Castle 
to refresh ourselves for halfe a day. . . ." After telling 
of the dilapidated condition of the Castle San Lorenzo at 
the mouth of the Chagres, "which in my time wanted great 
reparations, and was ready to fall downe to the ground," 
he continues, "The Govenour of the Castle was a notable 
wine-bibber, who plyed us with that liquor the time that we 
stayed there, and wanting a Chaplain for himself e, and 
Souldiers, would faine have had me stay with him; but greater 
matters called me further, and so I tooke my leave of him, 
who gave us some dainties of fresh meat, fish and conserves 
and so dismissed us. We got out to the open sea, discovering 
first the Escuedo de Veragua, and keeping somewhat close 
unto the land, we went on rowing towards Portobel, till the 
evening which was Saturday night; then we cast anchor 
behind a little Island, resolving in the morning to enter in 
Portobel. The Black-mores all that night kept watch for 


fear of Hollenders, whom they said did often lie in wait there 
abouts for the boats of Chiagre; but we passed the night 
safely and next morning got to Portobelo, whose haven 
we observed to be very strong with two Castles at the mouth 
and constant watch within them, and another called St. 
Miguel further in the Port . . . 

"When I came into the Haven I was sorry to see that as 
yet the Galeons were not come from Spaine, knowing that 
the longer I stayed in that place, greater would be my 
charges. Yet I comforted myselfe that the time of year 
was come, and that they could not long delay their coming. 
My first thoughts were of taking up a lodging, which at that 
time were plentifull and cheape, nay some were offered me 
for nothing with this caveat, that when the Galeons did come, 
I must either leave them, or pay a dear rate for them. A 
kind Gentleman, who was the Kings Treasurer, falling in 
discourse with me promised to help me, that I might be 
cheaply lodged even when the ships came, and lodgings 
were at the highest rate. He, interposing his authority, 
went with me to seeke one, which at the time of the fleets 
being there, might continue to be mine. It was no bigger 
than would containe a bed, a table, a stoole or two, with 
roome enough beside to open and shut the doore, and they 
demanded of me for it during the aforesaid time of the fleet, 
sixcore Crownes, which commonly is a fortnight. For the 
Towne being little, and the Souldiers, that come with the 
Galeons for their defence at least four or five thousand; 
besides merchants from Peru, from Spain and many other 
places to buy and sell, is cause that every roome, though 
never so small, be dear; and sometimes all the lodgings in 
the Towne are few enough for so many people, which at that 
time doe meet at Portobel. I knew a Merchant who gave 
a thousand Crownes for a shop of reasonable bignesse, to 
sell his wares and commodities that yeer I was there, for 


fifteen dales only, which the Fleet continued to be in that 
Haven. I thought it much for me to give the sixcore 
Crownes which were demanded of me for a room, which was 
but as a mouse hole, and began to be troubled, and told the 
Kings Treasurer that I had been lately robbed at sea, and 
was not able to give so much, and bee besides at charges for 
my diet, which I feared would prove as much more. But 
not a farthing would be abated of what was asked; where 
upon the good Treasurer, pitying me, offered to the man of 
the house to pay him threescore Crowns of it, if so be that I 
was able to pay the rest, which I must doe, or else lie without 
in the street. Yet till the Fleet did come I would not enter 
into this deare hole, but accepted of another faire lodging 
which was offered me for nothing. Whilst I thus expected 
the Fleets coming, some money and offerings I got for 
Masses, and for two Sermons which I preached at fifteen 
Crownes a peece. I visited the Castles, which indeed 
seemed unto me to be very strong; but what most I wondered 
at was to see the requa's of Mules which came thiether from 
Panama, laden with wedges of silver; in one day I told two 
hundred mules laden with nothing else, which were unladen in 
the publicke Market-place, so that there the heapes of 
silver wedges lay like heaps of stones in the street, without 
any feare or suspition of being lost. Within ten daies the 
fleet came, consisting of eight Galeons and ten Merchant 
ships, which forced me to run to my hole. It was a wonder 
then to see the multitude of people in those streets which 
the weeke before had been empty. 

"Then began the price of all things to rise, a fowl to be 
worth twelve Rialls, which in the mainland within I had often 
bought for one; a pound of beefe then was worth two Rialls, 
whereas I had in other places thirteen pounds for half a 
Riall, and so of all other food and provisions, which was so 
excessively dear, that I knew not how to live but by fish and 


Tortoises, which were very many, and though somewhat 
deare, yet were the cheapest meat I could eate." 

Once more the testimony of Frangois Coreal concurs with 
that of the English writer. 

"At the time of the arrival of the Galleons," he writes, 
"provisions rise to an extraordinary price, and lodgings are 
so dear during the twenty or twenty-five days when they 
load and unload the merchandise that the citizens who rent 
apartments make as much or more profit than those who 
come to trade." 

"It was worth seeing," Gage continues, "how Merchants 
sold their commodities, not by the Ell or yard, but by piece 
and weight, not paying in coined pieces of money, but in 
wedges, which were weighed and taken for commodities. 
This lasted but fifteen dayes, whilst the Galeons were lading 
with wedges of silver and nothing else; so that for those fifteen 
daies I dare boldly say and avouch that in the world there 
is no greater Fair than that of Portobel, between the Span- 
ish Merchants and those of Peru, Panama, and other places 
there about." 

Here Gage breaks off his narrative for a long theological 
discourse. One might say that having given a description 
of the physical aspects of Puerto Bello, he adds a picture of 
the psychology of the town in his times. 

The point, about which most of his own religious doubts 
centered, was the doctrine of Transubstantiation. This 
dogma of the church had long troubled him and it was 
especially on this matter that he hoped to find light in Rome, 
in the hope of which he had risked the anger of his superiors 
and a so dangerous journey. 

During the course of a mass which he celebrated during 
these fifteen days an incident occurred which he discusses at 
length and which was the cause of his conversion to Protes- 
tantism. Just before the climax of the mystery, the priest 


steps back from the altar and repeats a prayer of self- 
consecration called the " Memento." At this point in the 
ritual, Gage heard a slight noise on the altar and opening his 
eyes he saw a mouse running away with the consecrated wafer. 

Gage tells us that for a moment he was immensely 
frightened for his own safety. As an Englishman he was 
tolerated on account of his calling, but there were many 
Spaniards in those superstitious days who firmly believed that 
England was an annex of Hell and that all men of that race 
were lineal descendants of the Father of Lies. To make 
known what had happened would surely cause a great 
sensation, and very likely the fanatical mob might hold him 
responsible for the incident which all would regard as 
an appalling sacrilege. On the other hand, the one sin 
which the Inquisition held to be the most heinous was any 
tampering with the sacraments. In such matters they were 
frigid formalists and no excuse counterbalanced the slightest 
violation of the letter of the ritual. If Gage had gone on 
with the ceremony and anyone had seen the accident, he 
would run a very good chance of the stake. He decided 
that the populace was less to be feared than the Inquisition. 
He stopped the mass and calling for aid gave chase to the 
mouse. The frightened animal dropped the "hostie" and es- 
caped. The sacred wafer was found on the floor of the chancel. 

As Gage had foreseen there was a great hue and cry. There 
were fasts and special services to propitiate the wrath, which 
every one felt the Most High must feel at this sacrilege. 
However Gage escaped with his life and had time to think 
the thing out. He concluded: "Now here I knew that this 
Mouse had fed upon some substance, or else how could 
the markes of the teeth so plainely appear? But no Papist 
will bee willing to answer that it fed upon the substance of 
Christs Body, ergo, by good consequence it followes that it 
fed upon the substance of bread: and so Transubstantiation 


here in my judgment was confuted by a Mouse; which mean 
and base creature God chose to convince mee of my former 
errours, and made mee now resolve upon what many yeeres 
before I had doubted, that certainly the point of Transub- 
stantiation taught by the Church of Rome is most damnable 
and erroneous." 

While Gage's logic will not be very convincing to the 
modern mind, it gives us an interesting insight into how the 
men of his day thought. He changed his religious faith be- 
cause a miracle did not happen. A skeptic of our day might 
be converted if he saw lightning come down from Heaven 
and blast such an impious mouse. Gage's mind worked in a 
manner exactly opposite. His whole philosophy was changed, 
and his book shows that he thought earnestly, because the 
"Natural Order" was not interfered with as he thought 
he had a right to expect. 

Having described his conversion, he returns to the narra- 
tive : 

"Don Carlos de Ybarra, who was the Admirall of that 
Fleet, made great haste to bee gone; which made the Mer- 
chants buy and sell apace, and lade the ships with silver 
wedges; whereof I was glad, for the more they laded, the lesse 
I unladed my purse with buying deare provisions, and 
sooner I hoped to be out of that unhealthy place, which it- 
self e is very hot, and subject to breed Feavers, nay death, 
if the feet bee not preserved from wetting when it raineth; 
but especially when the Fleet is there, it is an open grave 
ready to swallow in part of that numerous people, which 
at that time resort unto it, as was seene the yeare that I was 
there, when about five hundred of the Soldiers, Merchants, 
and Mariners, what with Feavers, what with Flux caused 
by too much eating of fruit and drinking of water, what with 
other disorders lost their lives, finding it to bee to them 
not Porto bello, but Porto malo." 



THE effort of the Spanish government to exclude all for- 
eigners from any share in this fat traffic was, of course, fore- 
doomed to failure. In fact, the rigor with which they enforced 
the prohibitions against interlopers was the immediate cause 
of great loss. 

Early in the latter half of the sixteenth century an English 
trading vessel approached the harbor of Vera Cruz in Mexico. 
They sent a request to the governor for permission to enter 
and sell their cargo. That worthy gentleman, believing that 
if he refused to admit them, they would surely smuggle their 
goods ashore, invited them to drop anchor, and, having them 
under the guns of his fort, confiscated their ship and mer- 
chandise and for a while held the crew in prison. 

One of the English sailors the son of a Protestant min- 
ister and the oldest of twelve brothers was Francis Drake. 
He finally made his way back to Europe and spent consider- 
able time in trying to get some restitution from the Spanish 
government. Failing in this, he decided to collect what was 
due him and all possible interest and at the same time 
revenge himself for his foul treatment, by force. 

He made two piratical trips to the Indies in a small, fast 
vessel, the Swan. His prizes were insignificant. He made 
so little noise on these cruises that it is hard to find any 
record of them. But his main object was to secure informa- 

In 1570 he secured recognition in the English Court and 


Queen Elizabeth granted him "Letters of Marque" to cruise 
against the Spaniards. It is possible that he may have had 
similar commissions for his earlier cruises the point is 
uncertain but from now on he was a reputable " privateer" 
and not a "pirate." It is a distinction with no difference 
except of social position. A "privateer" could be a national 
hero, while a "pirate" could be the hero only of "the lower 
classes." The former had the entree to Court, the latter 
had to be contented with the adulation of cheap ale-houses. 

What England thought of Drake is shown by a little 
volume published in 1653 entitled "Sir Francis Drake 
Revived, Who is or may be a Pattern to stirre up all Heroicke 
and active Spirits of these Times, to benefit their Country 
and eternize their Names by like Noble Attempts. . . . 
Calling upon this Dull and Effeminate Age to follow his 
Noble Steps for Gold and Silver." 

Backed by his new commission he fitted out a more 
formidable expedition. A small one, indeed, for the work in 
hand, but well planned. In the spring of 1572, he was ready 
to sail, having his old ship, The Swan, and a new one, The 

"Having in both of them," writes the author of the book 
already referred to, "of men and boyes seventy-three, all 
voluntarily assembled, of which the eldest was fifty, all the 
rest under thirty. . . ." The ships were "both richly 
furnished, with victuals and apparell for a whole yeer; and 
no lesse heedfully provided of all manner of Munition, 
Artillery, Artificers, stuffe and tooles, that were requisite 
for such a Man of war in such an attempt, but especially 
having three dainty Pinnases, made in Plimouih, taken 
asunder all in peices and stowed aboard, to be set up as 
occasion served." 

They sailed without mishap to an uninhabited harbor on 
the coast of the Isthmus about half way between Nombre 


de Dios and Carthagena, which they reached on the 12th of 
July. Drake had visited the place on one of his former 
cruises in the Swan and had chosen it for a base of opera- 
tions. But on landing they found a sheet of lead nailed to 
a tree "greater than any four men, joyning hands, could 
fathom about." On this piece of lead was scratched this 
message : 

"Captain Drake, if you fortune to come to this Port, 
make hast away: For the Spanyards, which you had with 
you here the last year, have bewrayed this place, and 
taken away all that you left here. I departed from hence 
this present 7. of luly, 1572. 

"Your very loving friend 

"lohn Garret." 

This warning caused Drake to hunt out some other 
secluded cove the coast abounds in them and there he 
took out his "three dainty Pinnases" and had them "set 
up" by his artificers. 

Very little time was lost before he was under way for his 
famous attempt on Nombre de Dios. It must be remembered 
that this was the first enterprise of its kind. The English 
had not yet become accustomed to attacking fortified Span- 
ish towns with a handful of men. These young men all 
"under thirty," however stout their hearts, must have felt 
it an exceedingly desperate venture. 

During the night the three Pinnases most of the crew 
hiding in the bottom slipped into the harbor. One of their 
number who could speak Spanish answered the hail from the 
fort saying that they were from Cartagena. And so, getting 
safely past the cannon, they attacked the town. A small 
number of them stayed to guard the boats and the main 
body quickly mastered the place. There was very little 
fighting. The only resistance was in the Plaza where, our 


author writes, "the Souldiers and such as were joyned with 
them presented us with a jolly hot volley of shot." But the 
first charge dispersed this force. 

It is hard from the chronicles to determine who were 
more afraid, the townspeople or the invaders. The English 
apparently could not believe that they had taken the city 
so easily. As they met no large portion of the garrison, they 
supposed that they were lying somewhere in ambush. A 
rumor started that an attack was being made on the boats 
and that their retreat was cut off. Only with great effort 
could Drake prevent a stampede. He alone kept his head 
and, having gone to so much trouble, he was not going to 
be frightened into dropping his booty. Sending some of his 
men to support the guard on the water front, and posting 
sentries in various places, he led the main body of his men 
to the king's treasure house, which they broke open and there 
"we saw a huge heape of silver, . . . being a pile of bars of 
silver, of (as neere as we could guesse) seventy foot in length, 
of ten foot in breadth, and twelve foot in height, piled up 
against the wall, each barre was between thirty-five and forty 
pound in weight." 

But at this juncture, Drake, who had been wounded in 
that "jolly hot volley of shot," fainted from loss of blood. 
Panic at once fell on the privateers and, carrying their uncon- 
scious leader to the boats, they made off. Their retreat was 
so hurried, in fact, that they forgot some of the sentries, 
who had to swim out to their boats. The Spanish garrison, 
instead of having rallied to attack them, had not yet stopped 

What Drake said to his men when he recovered conscious- 
ness and found that they had let this rich booty slip through 
his fingers is not recorded. 

They returned to the secret harbor where they had left 
their ships, and very shortly set out again, this time for 


Cartagena. But that city, much more strongly fortified and 
garrisoned than Nombre de Dios, had been warned, and 
Drake's force was not strong enough to attempt to take it 
by assault. He contented himself with cutting out some of 
the shipping from under the guns of the fortress and sailed 
away. For a while he lay quiet in his secluded headquarters 
hoping that the Spaniards would think he had left the coast 
and so relax their vigilance. 

But the fame of his attack on Nombre de Dios had spread 
through the Isthmus and gained him unexpected allies. The 
Indians of the eastern end of the Isthmus had never, since 
the days of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, been at peace with the 
Spaniards. The English were evidently enemies of their 
enemies, and therefore their friends. Another element of 
the population, as bitter against the Spaniards as the In- 
dians, were the "Cimarrones." The origin of this word has 
not been satisfactorily explained. It is spelt in a dozen 
different ways in the old books. It was the name given by 
the Spaniards to the escaped negro slaves, who lived banded 
together in the jungle. The Indians seem to have welcomed 
these fugitives from the Spanish injustice and to have helped 
them in establishing villages and in planting bananas and 
plantains. These groups of freed slaves were even a greater 
menace to the colonists than the Indians. Their chiefs 
visited Drake's headquarters and entered into an alliance 
with him. 

Together with these negroes, Drake planned an adventure 
even more daring than his assault on Nombre de Dios. The 
native spies brought word that a ship had come from Peru 
to Panama loaded down with treasure. Drake, with eighteen 
Englishmen and a mixed company of Indians and Cimarrones 
started inland to intercept the treasure train on its way 
across the Isthmus. 

It was on this trip that Drake got his first sight of the 


Pacific. A Cimarrone brought him to a hilltop, very prob- 
ably within the limits of our Canal Zone, from which by 
climbing a tall tree he could see the Ocean to the south. 
The chronicle says that he fell on his knees and prayed 
Almighty God to grant him life until he could sail in those 
waters on an English ship. One of the men who was with 
him at this time and who also saw the Pacific was John 
Oxenham, of whom we will hear more. 

Near this place there was a large fortified camp of the 
Cimarrones. Drake and his men stayed there while one of 
the negroes, passing himself off as a slave, entered Panama 
and secured definite information about the time set for the 
departure of the treasure train. On the appointed night 
most of the transportation was done at night to avoid the 
excessive heat Drake ambushed his men on both sides of 
the trail. They had all put their shirts on outside their 
breast plates so as to be easily distinguishable in the dark. 
The instructions were to lie quiet until the mule train had 
passed and so cut off any chance of its retreat to Panama. 
The force was strung out for a considerable distance, each 
white man accompanied by two or three natives. And so 
they sat in the obscurity of the jungle and waited. Doubt- 
lessly the mosquitoes made things uncomfortable for them. 
And in their armor they must have found the heat oppressive. 

Presently the tinkle of mule-bells came from the direction 
of Panama. In a few minutes a man on foot came into the 
sight of the first Englishman. This cut-throat seems to have 
drunk too copiously of the insidious liquor which the Indians 
brew from sugar-cane. Instead of obeying orders, he 
abruptly stood up. His Cimarrone comrades pulled him 
down again, but it was too late. The Spaniard, scared by 
the apparition beyond the power to cry out, ran full speed 
back toward the city. The tinkling of the mule-bells 
ceased. The convoy halted to listen to the wild story of a 


white-robed ghost who had suddenly faced the foot pas- 
senger. The Spanish captain did not believe in ghosts, but 
still he could not explain a white-robed figure on the hillside. 
He probably did not suspect that Drake would have the 
audacity to come so near Panama, but anyhow discretion 
was an easy virtue; there was a train of mules loaded with 
grain behind him. It would be just as well to let them 
go first. So he ordered them to pass on, and the tinkling of 
mule-bells was heard again. 

Meanwhile Drake and those of his followers who were 
sober had no idea of what had happened. This time every- 
thing took place according to schedule. The mule-train was 
allowed to proceed until the last one's retreat was cut off. 
Drake gave the signal. "St. George and Merrie England" 
rang out through the jungle and almost without a blow these 
doughty warriors of Good Queen Bess had captured several 
dozen bushels of fodder. 

One almost hopes that Drake hung the drunken fool who 
spoiled it all. Such a daring venture even if it was robbery 
ought not to be defeated by such a banal blunder. 

Balked once more of his loot Drake returned to his head- 
quarters and knowing that now the country would be thor- 
oughly aroused, he threw off the mask. He went again to 
Cartagena, cut up some more shipping in that harbor, 
exchanged insulting pleasantries with the governor, and 
cruised up and down the coast, doing all the damage he could. 

But he was not willing to leave without striking some big 
game. In March, 1573, he was joined by a crew of French 
corsairs and, once more in alliance with the Cimarrones, he 
planned to intercept some of the treasure coming across the 
Isthmus. This time, instead of penetrating so far into the 
interior, he laid his ambush just outside of Nombre de Dios. 
I quote the narrative from another Drake book, "The 
English Hero," published in 1756. 


"Coming within a Mile of the Highway they refresh'd 
themselves all Night, hearing many Carpenters working on 
the Ships (because of the great Heat by Day) at Nombre de 
Dios; next Morning, April 1, 1573, they extreamly rejoiced 
to hear the Mules coming with a great Noise of Bells, hoping, 
though they were formerly disappointed, they should now 
have more Gold and Silver than they could carry away, as 
accordingly happened, for soon after there came three 
Recoes, one of fifty Mules, and two more of seventy in each 
Company, every one carrying three hundred Pound Weight 
of Silver, amounting in all to about thirty Tun; they soon 
prepared to go into the Highway hearing the Bells, and seized 
upon the first and last Mules, to try what Metal they carried. 
These three Recoes had a Guard of about forty-five Soldiers, 
fifteen to each, which caused the Exchange of some Shot 
and Arrows at first, wherein the French captain was sorely 
wounded with Hail Shot in his Belly, and one Symeron slain; 
but the Soldiers retiring for more Help, left their Mules, and 
the English took pains to ease some of them of their Burdens 
and, being weary, contented themselves with as many Bars 
and Wedges of Gold as they could well carry away, burying 
above fifty Tun of Silver in the Sands, and under old Trees : 
having in two Hours ended their Business, they prepared to 

It is considerable of a tax on the imagination to under- 
stand how, when the mules only carried thirty tons of silver, 
the English buried fifty tons of it. The story is further com- 
plicated by the fact that if they were within sound of the 
carpenter's hammers in the harbor it is hardly probable that 
they were allowed two solid uninterrupted hours for their 
"business." It would further be an amazing feat to bury 
two hundred mule loads of anything in so short a time. This 
is a fairly good sample of some of the gush which the English 
pass out as history of their naval heroes. 


However, although most of the details of this story as 
given in "The English Hero" are incredible, the fact is well 
established that Drake made this raid successfully and that 
his company, after many more adventures, regained their 
ships with all the gold they could carry. 

For three months more he hung about in those waters and 
early in August, 1573, started back for Plymouth. Besides 
his raids on the mainland he had captured over a hundred 
Spanish merchant vessels. His reception in England was 

He at once set about organizing an expedition into the 
Pacific. But his wish to be the first Englishman to sail in 
that Ocean was forestalled by Oxenham, who had been with 
him when he first saw the new sea. Oxenham collected a 
crew of adventurers in 1575 and sailed again to the Isthmus. 
With the aid of the Indians and Cimarrones he crossed the 
mountains by very nearly the same route as Balboa, and, 
launching out on the Gulf of San Miguel in native dug-outs, 
soon captured a small sailing-vessel; getting aboard of their 
prize they cruised about until they encountered a larger ship. 
They repeated the process several times, until at last they 
captured the famous "navio del oro," the "ship of gold," 
which brought up the bullion from the Peruvian mines. 
This was the first time an enemy had threatened the Span- 
iards in the Pacific, and they were entirely unprepared to 
protect themselves. So at first Oxenham had easy success. 
But finally, stirred up by the loss of their richest treasure 
ship, the Spaniards rallied. Oxenham had a series of mis- 
haps, bad weather and sickness, his overbearing manner had 
alienated the native allies, and his raid came to a disastrous 
end. Those of his company who did not die of famine or 
disease were captured and either executed in Panama or 
sent in chains to Spain. Most of the treasure was recovered. 

On November 15, 1577, Drake sailed from England again. 


He cleared the Straits of Magellan, ten months later 
September, 1578 sacked half a dozen towns on the west 
coast of South America why he did not "attempt" Panama 
is not clear collected an immense amount of booty, and 
tailed up the Californian coast to the 43 North. Then 
turning south again he crossed the Pacific and rounding the 
Cape of Good Hope, brought the Golden Hind to anchor in 
Plymouth in September, 1580. 

Five years later war was declared with Spain, and Drake 
now an admiral in the regular navy sailed from Plymouth 
with twenty-five warships. He landed at Santo Domingo 
and spared the city in consideration of 25,000 ducats. He 
then visited Cartagena and extracted a ransom of 145,000 

Here news of the outfitting of the great Armada in Spain 
caused him to be called home. So, after only six months of 
pillage in the West Indies, he returned reluctantly to Eng- 
land. It was two years before the Armada really materialized. 

For several years after this Drake was idle, but in 1595 
he again went to sea. On August 28th he set sail with six 
government warships, twenty-one privateers and 2,500 men. 
He met his first serious repulse in Puerto Rico. A desperate 
attempt to capture, the fortress of San Juan failed disas- 
trously, and he sailed to the mainland. On the whole it was 
an unsuccessful voyage. The cities he captured could not 
or would not pay the ransoms he demanded. One after 
another he was forced to burn Rancheria, Rio de le Hacha, 
Santa Marta and Nombre de Dios. They were all scantily 
fortified and helpless before his strong armament. The 
captains of his men-of-war may have been satisfied with the 
glory, but it was very poor picking for his twenty-one priv- 
ateers. Another setback came to him on the Isthmus. 
From Nombre de Dios he tried to send a land force across 
to sack Panama. They became hopelessly entangled in the 


jungle and were beaten back more by the dense vegetation 
and swamps than by the Spaniards, who did little beyond 
butchering the stragglers. 

From Nombre de Dios Drake sailed to Puerto Bello. The 
fortifications of that harbor were not so formidable as at 
San Juan de Puerto Rico, but still there was a chance for a 
real fight. But on the 28th of January, 1596, just as the 
English were about to attack the city, Sir Francis Drake 
died in his cabin. He was buried in the mouth of the harbor. 
The fleet having lost its leader, lost heart as well, and sailed 
back to England. 

Drake was a great sea-captain. He seems to have suc- 
ceeded somewhat better in the adventures he undertook 
with small forces than when acting as admiral of a large fleet. 
He was entirely free from the wanton cruelty which clouded 
the brilliant achievements of the buccaneers. He was not 
at heart a pirate. Although he always harbored a bitter 
resentment against the Spaniards for their mistreatment of 
him at Vera Cruz, still he seems to have generally treated 
his captives as prisoners of war. Some of his raids were com- 
mitted in times of nominal peace between his sovereign and 
the Spanish throne, but he seems to have always thought 
of himself as engaged in honorable warfare. When a man 
has so many real achievements to his credit, it is rather dis- 
tressing to read of the fantastic and unreal adventures 
ascribed to him by his countrymen. 

But it is impossible to exaggerate the fear which his name 
carried throughout the Spanish colonies. 

Mr. G. Jenner has translated some interesting sections 
relating to him from the works of a Spanish historian, Fray 
Pedro Simon. This author is very much more temperate 
in his language than most of the Spaniards who mention 
Drake, and the quotations give a good example of what the 
more intelligent people of Latin- America thought of him. 


After the raids on the Isthmus in 1572 and 1573, this 
writer says: " Drake returned to London, where he arrived 
with much plunder after a prosperous voyage. He was 
received there with the applause that commonly gratifies 
wealth, and even the queen favored him with excessive 
demonstrations and greater courtesy than became her royal 
person. After all, however, that was woman-like and due 
somewhat to her covetousness and to the desire of putting 
her arms up to the elbow into the great plunder brought home 
by the Protestant." 

After having made his voyage of circumnavigation, Fray 
Simon says that Drake bought an estate and attempted to 
settle down, "but all this was like drinking salt water, for, 
as we shall see, the thirst of his covetousness was in no way 
quenched. . . . 

"Considering the condition of man degraded by sin and 
incapable of resisting temptation of greed, we need not 
wonder that the acquisition of goods should lead to the desire 
to add to them, especially amongst those who know neither 
law nor God. . . ." 

Of the 1586 expedition he writes: "For thirty days 
the heretical pirate held the city (Santo Domingo), his 
Lutheran ministers preaching their creed, and constant 
festivities going on. The Protestant would send from time 
to time for some of the fugitives, with whom he conversed 
in jovial and conceited tones, jeering at the fear of our people, 
who had allowed his fatigued and harassed soldiers to take 
possession of their town without resistance, and attacking 
our Christian religion to justify his heresies and robberies." 
During the occupation of Cartagena, on the same expedition, 
he writes that "the images painted on the walls of these 
churches were exposed to pitiful insults, and the tenets of 
Luther were preached on the terraces of the Government 


When he gets to the last expedition of Drake, the good 
father becomes even more indignantly eloquent. After 
describing the burning of Rio de la Hacha, Santa Marta and 
Nombre de Dios, he says: 'Of all his wickedness the one 
he indulged in with especial satisfaction was the use of fire, 
as if he were preparing himself for the flames that would 
torture him in hell. . . ." Describing his death before 
Puerto Bello, which he, apparently without any reason, as- 
cribes to poison, he writes: "Then his tongue congealed: his 
mouth became scarlet and distorted, giving issue (if that be 
the exit) to that lost soul that hastened direct to hell." 

But the death of Drake by no means relieved the Spanish 
colonies from the terror of the "heretical pirates." In a very 
rare book published in London in 1740 called "A geograph- 
ical Description of Coasts, Harbors and Sea Ports of the 
Spanish West Indies" by D. G. Carranza, there is an appen- 
dix in which Captain William Parker describes his assault 
on Puerto Bello. He was one of the first upon whom fell 
the mantle of the great Sir Francis. 

He sailed from Plymouth in 1601 with two ships, two 
shallops, a pinnace and two hundred men. He touched the 
mainland first in what is now Venezuela, near the spot where 
Las Casas tried to found his knightly colony; here Parker 
picked up a load of pearls valued at 2,500 pesos. Then off 
the Cape de la Vela he overhauled a Portuguese slave-ship 
for which he accepted a ransom of another 2,500 pesos. 

On the 7th of February, 1602, he reached Puerto Bello. 
This large harbor was protected by two formidable forts on 
each side of the entrance which, as Thomas Gage said, could 
with their cannon "reach and command one another." "The 
Place where my Shippes roade," says Parker, "beinge the 
rock where Sir Francis Drake his coffin was throwne over- 

By the time-worn trick of hailing the sentries in Spanish 


he got his little fleet past the forts during the night and at 
once began the attack. The first party ashore met with an 
even jollier "hot volley of shot" than that which was pre- 
sented to Drake in Nombre de Dios. It killed or wounded 
all but nine of the English. 

"But," says the Captain and he seems to have been a 
very pious man " God did prosper our Proceedings mightilie, 
for the first two shott which went out from us shot Malendus 
(the Governor of Puerto Bello) through his Targett, and 
went throughe both his Armes, and the other Shott hurted 
the Corporall of the Fielde, whereupon they all retired to 
their House, which they made good untill it was almost 

But when all his men had come up, Parker was able to 
drive them out of their last stronghold and was free to sack 
the city. They gathered 10,000 ducats worth of spoil. If 
they had arrived a week earlier they would have captured a 
far richer prize, for on the 1st of February a treasure ship had 
left the port carrying 120,000 ducats in bullion. To get away 
with their plunder they had to run the forts, which were 
much too strong for their small force to assault. 

"But God so wrought for us," he says, "that we safely 
gott forthe againe contrarie to the expectations of our 

Although Parker, like Drake, was more of a privateer than 
pirate, it soon became impossible to distinguish between the 
"profession" and the "trade." As early as 1531, French 
corsairs began to infest the Caribbean Sea. When their own 
country was at war with Spain they flew the French flag. 
But once having tasted the wild life of privateering, it was 
difficult for them to settle down to quiet industry when a 
temporary peace interfered with their lucrative enterprises. 
They got into the habit of switching their allegiance to what- 
ever country was embroiled with Spain. Every really enter- 


prising sea-rover had at least four or five commissions from 
different countries in his chest. And as the spell of their 
adventurous life grew upon them they became less and less 
careful to preserve the forms of honorable war. What was 
true of the French privateers was equally true of the English. 
The "heretical pirates" of the sixteenth century were 
honored war-dogs of the Good Queen Bess, carrying on the 
desperate war for national existence and religious freedom 
against the archenemy. Drake and Parker according to 
the standards of their day were gentlemen. The "heretical 
pirates" of the next century were a decidedly lower order 
of men. 



THE etymology of the word " buccaneer" has led many 
historians astray. 

The Indians called the meat which they preserved by 
smoking "buccan." Just as the Spanish horse developed 
into wild herds on our Western plains, so their cattle multi- 
plied very rapidly on the islands of Santo Domingo and 
Cuba. " Buccan" was in great demand for victualling the 
ships. And gradually a trade grew up, of men, almost as 
wild as the cattle they hunted, who went out into the unin- 
habited savanahs and jungle to kill and cure meat to supply 
the towns. The French, who had settled on one end of 
Santo Domingo using their regular suffix coined the word 
" buccaneer" as a name for these cattle hunters. 

It was not a remunerative trade. The men who followed 
it were the jetsam of colonial society; criminals, who feared 
the justice of the towns; misanthropists, who preferred the 
open solitude beyond the frontiers to the press of their fellow 
men. From what we know of them they seem to have been 
vagabonds rather than desperadoes. The name came to be 
used like our American word " tramp." If anyone missed 
a silver spoon, or if the washing was blown off the line, it 
was blamed on these irresponsible cow-hunters. And it 
was the same when a derelict burnt down to the water's edge 
was encountered at sea; the respectable people shook their 
heads and said, " Surely it was the Buccaneers." 

But the chroniclers of the sea-rovers, Exquemelin, Wafer, 


Dampier, Ringrose and the others, do not show that the 
crews of buccaneer ships were to any large extent recruited 
from these men who killed the wild cattle and peddled the 
"buccan" in the towns. These poor devils did nothing 
much for the pirates but give them a name. 

The men who sailed with Mansfield, Morgan and Sharpe 
had very few of them done such an innocent thing as kill 
cattle since they had reached the age of sixteen. 

It would take us too far afield to analyze the character of 
the population in the colonies. Spain, alone of the Euro- 
pean nations, made any effort to send a substantial class of 
people to the Indies. It was a perfunctory effort, no doubt, 
but the other countries frankly made the New World a 
dumping-ground for criminals. The French, Dutch and 
English, all had penal colonies in the Antilles. The inden- 
tured servants were notoriously a wild lot. And very many 
of the free citizens had left home in haste just in time to 
preserve their freedom. 

It was not difficult to gather half a hundred cut-throats 
in any American port; more than one pirate ship in later 
years sailed from Plymouth colony. The privateers, the 
heroes of the British navy, showed the way. The habit of 
applauding rapine on the Spanish Main had become so deep- 
seated in England that no serious effort was made to check 
the piracy which had its headquarters in Jamaica until well 
along towards the close of the seventeenth century. 

But piracy was by no means confined to one nationality. 
As a general proposition it was considered legitimate for 
any Protestant to prey on the subjects of His Most Catholic 
Majesty. This gave free license to practically all English- 
men and Hollanders. And a great many Frenchmen on 
their arrival in the Indies decided that it would be profitable 
to become Hugueneaux. 

"These 'corsarios Luteranos' as the Spaniards sometimes 


called them," Haring writes, "scouring the coast of the 
Main from Venezuela to Cartagena, hovering about the 
broad channel between Cuba and Yucatan, or prowling in 
the Florida Straits, became the nightmare of Spanish sea- 
men. Like a pack of terriers they hung upon the skirts of 
the great unwieldly fleets, ready to snap up any unfortunate 
vessel which a tempest or other accident had separated from 
its fellows. When Thomas Gage was sailing in the galleons 
from Porto Bello to Cartagena, in 1637, four buccaneers 
hovering near them carried away two merchant-ships under 
cover of darkness. As the same fleet was departing from 
Havana, just outside the harbor two strange vessels appeared 
in their midst, and getting to the windward of them singled 
out a Spanish ship which had strayed a short distance from 
the rest, suddenly gave her a broadside and made her yield. 
The vessel was laden with sugar and other goods to the value 
of 80,000 crowns. The Spanish vice-admiral and two other 
galleons gave chase, but without success, for the wind was 
against them. The whole action lasted only half an hour. 

"The Spanish ships of the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies were notoriously clumsy and unseaworthy. With 
short keel and towering poop and forecastle, they were an 
easy prey for the long, low, close-sailing sloops and barques 
of the buccaneers. But it was not their only weakness. 
Although the king expressly prohibited the loading of mer- 
chandise on the galleons except on the king's account, this 
rule was often broken for the private profit of the captain, 
the sailors, and even of the general. The men-of-war, in- 
deed, were sometimes so embarrassed with goods and passen- 
gers that it was scarcely possible to defend them when at- 
tacked. The galleon which bore the general's flag had often 
as many as seven hundred souls, crew, marines and passen- 
gers, on board, and the same number were crowded upon 
those carrying the vice-admiral and the pilot. Ship-masters 


frequently hired guns, anchors, cables, and stores to make up 
the required equipment, and men to fill up the muster-rolls, 
against the time when the "visitadors" came on board to 
make their official inspection, getting rid of the stores and 
men inmediately afterward. Merchant ships were armed 
with such feeble crews, owing to the excessive crowding, that 
it was all they could do to withstand the least spell of bad 
weather, let alone out-manoeuvre a swift-sailing buccaneer." 

Henry Morgan, the most famous of the buccaneers, was 
typical. When a young boy he was kidnapped in the 
streets of Bristol it is claimed that he came of a good 
English family and was sold as an indentured servant to 
some colonist in Barbados. When his time had expired he 
made his way to Jamaica and soon fell in with the bucca- 
neers who infested that island. Before very long he became 
the captain of a ship. At first he seems to have had but 
moderate fortune. He took part in several raids but did 
not rise to prominence until he joined forces with Mans- 
field the first of the buccaneers who succeeded in rallying 
enough pirates under one command to make himself for- 
midable to fortified coast towns. Morgan became his prin- 
cipal lieutenant, and when this chief passed over became the 
acknowledged leader of the buccaneers. 

In June, 1668, when he was thirty-three years old, Mor- 
gan collected a fleet of nine or ten small ships and perhaps 
four hundred men. With them he attacked Puerto Bello 
and wrote his name alongside that of Sir Francis Drake in 
the record of Englishmen whom the Spaniards feared and 

In his company was a young Dutch apothecary, named 
Exquemelin, who afterwards wrote one of the most popular 
books of the century. His history of the Sea-Rovers, first 
printed in his own language, was soon translated into half a 
dozen others and edition after edition was printed. Almost 


every book on the buccaneers which has appeared since is 
based on Exquemelin. 

"Captain Morgan," he says, "who knew very well all the 
avenues of this city, as also all the neighboring coasts, ar- 
rived in the dusk of the evening at the place called Puerto 
de Naos [probably the present Colon Harbor], distant ten 
leagues towards the west of Porto Bello. Being come unto 
this place, they mounted the river in their ships, as far as 
another harbor called Puerto Pontin, where they came to 
anchor. Here they put themselves immediately into boats 
and canoes, leaving in the ships only a few men to keep 
them and conduct them the next day into the port. About 
midnight they came to a certain place called Estera longa 
Lemos, where they all went on shore, and marched by land 
to the first posts of the city. They had in their company a 
certain Englishman, who had been formerly a prisoner in 
those parts, and who now served them for a guide. Unto 
him, and three or four more, they gave commission to take 
the sentry, if possible, or to kill him upon the place. But 
they laid hands on him and apprehended him with such 
cunning as he had no time to give warning with his musket, 
or make any other noise. Thus they brought him, with his 
hands bound, unto Captain Morgan, who asked him: 'How 
things went in the city, and what forces they had'; with 
many other circumstances, which he was desirous to know. 
After every question they made him a thousand menaces 
to kill him, in case he declared not the truth. Thus they 
began to advance towards the city, carrying always the said 
sentry bound before them. Having marched about one 
quarter of a league, they came to the castle that is nigh unto 
the city, which presently they closely surrounded, so that 
no person could either get in or out of the said fortress. 

"Being thus posted under the walls of the castle, Cap- 
tain Morgan commanded the sentry, whom they had taken 


prisoner, to speak to those that were within, charging them 
to surrender, and deliver themselves up to his discretion; 
otherwise they should be all cut to pieces, without giving 
quarter to any one. But they would harken to none of 
these threats, beginning instantly to fire; which gave notice 
unto the city, and this was suddenly alarmed. Yet, not- 
withstanding, although the governor and soldiers of the said 
castle made as great resistance as could be performed, they 
were constrained to surrender unto the pirates. These no 
sooner had taken the castle, than they resolved to be as 
good as their word, in putting the Spaniards to the sword, 
thereby to strike a terror into the rest of the city. Here- 
upon, having shut up all the soldiers and officers as pris- 
oners, into one room, they instantly set fire to the powder 
(whereof they found great quantity), and blew up the whole 
castle into the air, with all the Spaniards that were within. 
This being done, they pursued the course of their victory, 
falling upon the city, which as yet was not in order to 
receive them. Many of the inhabitants cast their precious 
jewels and money into wells and cisterns or hid them in 
other places underground, to excuse as much as possible, 
their being totally robbed. One party of the pirates, being 
assigned to this purpose, ran immediately to the cloisters 
and took as many religious men and women as they could 
find. The governor of the city not being able to rally the 
citizens, through the huge confusion of the town, retired 
into one of the castles remaining, and from thence began to 
fire incessantly at the pirates. But these were not in the 
least negligent either to assault him or defend themselves 
with all the courage imaginable. Thus it was observed that, 
amidst the horror of the assault, they made very few shot in 
vain. For aiming with great dexterity at the mouths of 
the guns, the Spaniards were certain to lose one or two men 
every time they charged each gun anew. 


"The assault of the castle where the governor was con- 
tinued very furious on both sides, from break of day until 
noon. Yea, about this time of the day the case was very 
dubious which party should conquer or be conquered. . . . 
Captain Morgan, seeing this generous defense made by the 
Spaniards, began to despair of the whole success of the en- 
terprise. Hereupon many faint and calm meditations came 
into his mind; neither could he determine which way to 
turn himself in that straitness of affairs. Being involved in 
these thoughts, he was suddenly animated to continue the 
assault, by seeing the English colours put forth at one of 
the lesser castles, then entered by his men, of whom he 
presently after spied a troop that came to meet him pro- 
claiming victory with loud shouts of joy. This instantly 
put him upon new resolutions of making new efforts to take 
the rest of the castles that stood out against him; especially 
seeing the chief citizens were fled unto them, and had con- 
veyed thither great part of their riches, with all the plate 
belonging to the churches, and other things dedicated to 
divine service. 

"To this effect, therefore, he ordered ten or twelve lad- 
ders to be made, in all possible haste, so broad that three or 
four men at once might ascend by them. These being fin- 
ished, he commanded all the religious men and women 
whom he had taken prisoners to fix them against the walls 
of the castle. Thus much he had before hand threatened 
the governor to perform, in case he delivered not the castle. 
But his answer was: 'He would never surrender himself 
alive.' Captain Morgan was much persuaded that the 
governor would not employ his utmost forces, seeing relig- 
ious women and ecclesiastical persons exposed in the front 
of the soldiers to the greatest dangers. Thus the ladders, 
as I have said, were put into the hands of religious persons 
of both sexes; and these were forced, at the head of the 


companies, to raise and apply them to the walls. But 
Captain Morgan was deceived in his judgment of this 
design. For the governor, who acted like a brave and 
courageous soldier, refused not, in performance of his duty, 
to use his utmost endeavours to destroy whosoever came 
near the walls. The religious men and women ceased not 
to cry unto him and beg of him by all the Saints of Heaven 
he would deliver the castle, and hereby spare both his and 
their own lives. But nothing could prevail with the ob- 
stinacy and fierceness that had possessed the governor's 
mind. Thus many of the religious men and nuns were 
killed before they could fix the ladders. Which at last 
being done, though with great loss of the said religious 
people, the pirates mounted them in great numbers, and 
with no less valour; having fireballs in their hands and 
earthen pots full of powder. All which things, being now 
at the top of the walls, they kindled and cast in among the 

"This effort of the pirates was very great, insomuch as 
the Spaniards could no longer resist nor defend the castle, 
which was now entered. Hereupon they all threw down 
their arms, and craved quarter for their lives. Only the 
governor of the city would admit or crave no mercy; but 
rather killed many of the pirates with his own hands, and 
not a few of his own soldiers because they did not stand to 
their arms. And although the pirates asked him if he 
would have quarter, yet he constantly answered: "By no 
means; I had rather die as a valiant soldier, than be hanged 
as a coward.' They endeavoured as much as they could 
to take him prisoner. But he defended himself so obsti- 
nately that they were forced to kill him; notwithstanding 
all the cries and tears of his own wife and daughter, who 
begged him upon their knees he would demand quarter and 
save his life. When the pirates had possessed themselves 


of the castle, which was about night, they enclosed therein 
all the prisoners they had taken, placing the women and men 
by themselves, with some guards upon them. All the 
wounded were put into a certain apartment by itself, to the 
intent their own complaints might be the cure of their dis- 
ease; for no other was afforded them. 

"This being done, they fell to eating and drinking after 
their usual manner; that is to say, committing in both these 
things all manner of debauchery and excess. . . . After 
such manner they delivered themselves up unto all sort of 
debauchery, that if there had been found only fifty courag- 
ous men, they might easily have retaken the city, and killed 
all the pirates. The next day, having plundered all they 
could find, they began to examine some of the prisoners 
(who had been persuaded by their companions to say they 
were the richest of the town), charging them severely to 
discover where they had hidden their riches and goods. But 
not being able to extort anything out of them, as they were 
not the right persons that possessed any wealth, they at last 
resolved to torture them. This they performed with such 
cruelty that many of them died upon the rack, or presently 
after. Soon after, the President of Panama had news 
brought him of the pillage and ruin of Porto Bello. This 
intelligence caused him to employ all his care and industry 
to raise forces, with design to pursue and cast out the 
pirates from thence. But these cared little for what 
extraordinary means the president used, as having their 
ships nigh at hand, and being determined to set fire unto the 
city and retreat. They had now been at Porto Bello fifteen 
days, in which space of time they had lost many of their 
men, both by the unhealthiness of the country and the ex- 
travagant debaucheries they had committed." 

In regard to the diseases which carried off some of the 
pirates, Mr. Haring gives a note in which he quotes an old 


book called "The Present State of Jamaica, 1683," which 
says that Morgan brought the plague back from Puerto 
Bello, "that killed my Lady Modyford and others." 

"Hereupon they prepared for a departure," Exquemelin 
continues, "carrying on board their ships all the pillage they 
had gotten. But, before all, they provided the fleet with 
sufficient victuals for the voyage. While these things were 
getting ready, Captain Morgan sent an injunction unto the 
prisoners, that they should pay him a ransom for the city, 
or else he would by fire consume it to ashes, and blow up all 
the castles into the air. Withal, he commanded them to 
send speedily two persons to seek and procure the sum he 
demanded, which amounted to one hundred thousand pieces 
of eight. Unto this effect, two men were sent to the Presi- 
dent of Panama, who gave him an account of all these 
tragedies. . . ." 

The President of Panama was unable to relieve the 
stricken town, and so "the miserable citizens, gathered the 
contribution wherein they were fined, and brought the 
entire sum of one hundred thousand pieces of eight unto 
the pirates, for a ransom of the cruel captivity they were 
fallen into. But the President of Panama, by these trans- 
actions, was brought into an extreme admiration, consider- 
ing that four hundred men had been able to take such a 
great city, with so many strong castles; especially seeing 
they had no pieces of cannon, nor other great guns, where- 
with to raise batteries against them. And what was more, 
knowing that the citizens of Porto Bello had always great 
repute of being good soldiers themselves, and who had never 
wanted courage in their own defence. This astonishment 
was so great, that it occasioned him, for to be satisfied 
thereon, to send a messenger unto Captain Morgan, desiring 
him to send him some small pattern of those arms where- 
with he had taken with such violence so great a city. 


Captain Morgan received this messenger very kindly, and 
treated him with great civility. Which being done, he gave 
him a pistol and a few small bullets of lead, to carry back 
unto the President, his master, telling him withal: 'He de- 
sired him to accept that slender pattern of arms wherewith 
he had taken Porto Bello and keep them for a twelvemonth ; 
after which time he promised to come to Panama and fetch 
them away.' The governor of Panama returned the present 
very soon unto Captain Morgan, giving him thanks for the 
favour of lending him such weapons as he needed not, and 
withal sent him a ring of gold, with this message: 'That he 
desired him not give himself the labour of coming to Pan- 
ama, as he had done to Porto Bello; for he did certify unto 
him that he should not speed so well here as he had done 

"After these transactions, Captain Morgan (having pro- 
vided his fleet with all necessaries, and taken with him the 
best guns of the castles, nailing the rest which he could not 
carry away) set sail from Porto Bello with all his ships. 
With these he arrived in a few days unto the Island of 
Cuba, where he sought out a place wherein with all quiet and 
repose he might make the dividend of the spoil they had 
gotten. They found in ready money two hundred and fifty 
thousand pieces of eight, besides all other merchandise, as 
cloth, linen, silks and other goods. With this rich purchase 
they sailed again from thence unto their common place of 
rendezvous, Jamaica. Being arrived, they passed here some 
time in all sorts of vices and debauchery, according to 
their common manner of doing, spending with huge prodi- 
gality what others had gained with no small labour and 

The fame of this exploit made it easy for Morgan to 
muster a larger force for the carrying out of his threat 
against Panama. In October, 1670, he sailed from Kings- 


ton to a rendezvous where he gathered between twenty-five 
and thirty English vessels and five or ten French. 

"The President of Panama, meanwhile, on 15th Decem- 
ber, had received a messenger from the governor of Carta- 
gena with news of the coming of the English," writes Haring. 
"The president immediately dispatched reinforcements to 
the Castle of Chagre, which arrived fifteen days before the 
buccaneers and raised its strength to over 350 men. Two 
hundred men were sent to Porto Bello, and 500 more were 
stationed at Venta Cruz and in ambuscades along the 
Chagre River to oppose the advance of the English. The 
president himself rose from a bed of sickness to head a re- 
serve of 800, but most of his men were raw recruits without 
a professional soldier amongst them. This militia in a few 
days became so panic-stricken that one-third deserted in a 
night, and the president was compelled to retire to Panama. 
There the Spaniards managed to load some of the treasure 
upon two or three ships lying in the roadstead; and the nuns 
and most of the citizens of importance also embarked with 
their wives, children and personal property." 

After severe fighting and considerable loss of life, the 
buccaneers captured Fort San Lorenzo at the mouth of the 
Rio Chagres and started up the river in canoes. From the 
very first they encountered great hardships from the diffi- 
cult and unfamiliar trail. The Spaniards had been careful 
not to leave anything edible in their way and after the first 
day they ran out of provisions. On the fourth day they came 
to a little village where they expected that "they should find 
some provisions wherewith to satiate their hunger, which 
was very great. Being come unto the place, they found 
nobody in it, the Spaniards who were there not long before 
being every one fled, and leaving nothing behind unless it 
were a small number of leather bags, all empty, and a few 
crumbs of bread scattered upon the ground where they had 


eaten. Being angry at this misfortune, they pulled down a 
few little huts which the Spaniards had made, and after- 
wards fell to eating the leather bags, as being desirous to 
afford something to the ferment of their stomachs, which 
now was grown so sharp that it did gnaw their very bowels, 
having nothing else to prey upon. Thus they made a huge 
banquet upon those bags of leather, which doubtless had 
been more grateful unto them, if divers quarrels had not 
risen concerning who should have the greatest share. By 
the circumference of the place they conjectured five hundred 
Spaniards, more or less, had been there. And these, finding 
no victuals, they were now infinitely desirous to meet, in- 
tending to devour some of them rather than perish. Whom 
they would certainly in that occasion have roasted or boiled, 
to satisfy their famine, had they been able to take them. 

"After they had feasted themselves with those pieces of 
leather, they quitted the place, and marched farther on, till 
they came about night to another post called Torna Munni. 
Here they found another ambuscade, but as barren and 
desert as the former. They searched the neighbouring woods 
but could not find the least thing to eat. The Spaniards 
having been so provident as not to leave behind them any- 
where the least crumb of sustenance, whereby the pirates 
were now brought to the extremity aforementioned. Here 
again he was happy, that had reserved since noon any small 
piece of leather whereof to make his supper, drinking after 
it a good draught of water for his greatest comfort. Some 
persons who never were out of their mother's kitchens may 
ask how these pirates could eat, swallow and digest those 
pieces of leather, so hard and dry. Unto whom I only 
answer: That could they once experiment what hunger, or 
rather famine, is, they would certainly find the manner, by 
their own necessity, as the pirates did. For these first took 
the leather and sliced it in pieces. Then did they beat it 


between two stones and rub it, often dipping it in the water 
of the river, to render it by these means supple and tender. 
Lastly they scraped off the hair, and roasted or broiled it 
upon the fire. And being thus cooked they cut it into small 
morsels, and eat it, helping it down with frequent gulps of 
water, which by good fortune they had nigh at hand." 

On the next day "they found two sacks of meal, wheat 
and like things, with two great jars of wine, and certain 
fruits called plantanos. Captain Morgan, knowing that 
some of his men were now, through hunger, reduced almost 
to the extremity of their lives, and fearing lest the major 
part should be brought into the same condition, caused all 
that was found to be distributed amongst them who were in 
greatest necessity. Having refreshed themselves with these 
victuals, they began to march anew with greater courage 
than ever. Such as could not well go for weakness were 
put into the canoes, and those commanded to land that 
were in them before. Thus they prosecuted their journey 
till late at night, at which time they came unto a plantation 
where they took up their rest. But without eating anything 
at all; for the Spaniards, as before, had swept away all man- 
ner of provisions, leaving not behind them the least signs of 

"On the sixth day they continued their march, part of 
them by land through the woods, and part by water in the 
canoes. Howbeit they were constrained to rest themselves 
very frequently by the way, both for the ruggedness thereof 
and the extreme weakness they were under. . . . This 
day, at noon, they arrived at a plantation, where they found 
a barn full of maize. Immediately they beat down the 
doors, and fell to eating of it dry, as much as they could 
devour. Afterwards they distributed great quantity, giving 
to every man a good allowance thereof. Being thus pro- 
vided they prosecuted their journey." 


On the eighth day, according to Exquemelin, they met 
with some resistance. Although the Spaniards would not 
stop to give battle, the Indians were bolder, and there were 
two or three sharp skirmishes. 

On the ninth day, having had nothing to eat but scraps 
of leather, some dry maize and the two sacks of meal and a 
few plantains, they came to a high mountain, which, "when 
they ascended, they discovered from the top thereof the 
South Sea. This happy sight, as if it were the end of their 
labours, caused infinite joy among the pirates. From hence 
they could descry one ship and six boats, which were set 
forth from Panama, and sailed towards the islands of Tavoga 
and Tavogilla. Having descended this mountain, they came 
unto a vale, in which they found great quantity of cattle, 
whereof they killed good store. Here while some were 
employed in killing and flaying of cows, horses, bulls and 
chiefly asses, of which there was the greatest number, others 
busied themselves in kindling of fires and getting wood 
wherewith to roast them. Thus cutting the flesh of these 
animals into convenient pieces, or gobbets, they threw them 
into the fire and, half carbonadoed or roasted, they devoured 
them with incredible haste and appetite. For such was their 
hunger that they more resembled cannibals than Europeans 
at this banquet, the blood many times running down from 
their beards to the middle of their bodies. 

"Having satisfied their hunger with these delicious meats, 
Captain Morgan ordered them to continue the march." 

It is needless to describe the battle before the city. Ex- 
quemelin goes into great detail, but very little of his account 
is convincing. Morgan, in his report to Gov. Modyford of 
Jamaica, says that the Spaniards had more than two thou- 
sand infantry and six hundred cavalry. The President of 
Panama, in his report to the Spanish Court, says that he 
had but twelve hundred in all, mostly negroes, mulattoes 


and Indians. His men were for the most part armed with 
fowling-pieces, and his artillery he claims was made up of 
three wooden guns bound with hide. The buccaneers, while 
greatly outnumbered, were very much better soldiers than 
the crude militia which protected the town. Morgan claims 
that he only lost five men killed and ten wounded, and that 
the Spanish loss was about four hundred. Exquemelin says 
there were six hundred Spaniards "dead upon the place 
besides wounded and prisoners." The buccaneers met more 
formidable resistance when they entered the city. 

"They found much difficulty in their approach unto the 
city. For within the town the Spaniards had placed many 
great guns, at several quarters thereof, some of which were 
charged with small pieces of iron, and others with musket 
bullets. With all these they saluted the pirates, at their 
drawing nigh unto the place, and gave them full and fre- 
quent broadsides, firing at them incessantly. Whence it 
came to pass that unavoidably they lost, at every step they 
advanced, great numbers of men. But neither these mani- 
fest dangers of their lives, nor the sight of so many of their 
own as dropped down continually at their sides, could deter 
them from advancing farther, and gaining ground every mo- 
ment upon the enemy. Thus, although the Spaniards never 
ceased to fire and act the best they could for their defence, 
yet notwithstanding they were forced to deliver the city after 
the space of three hours combat. And the pirates, having now 
possessed themselves thereof, both killed and destroyed as 
many as attempted to make the least opposition against them. 
The inhabitants had caused the best of their goods to be 
transported to more remote and occult places. Howbeit they 
found within the city as yet several warehouses, very well 
stocked with all sorts of merchandise, as well as silks and 
cloths as linen, and other things of considerable value. As 
soon as the first fury of their entrance into the city was over, 


Captain Morgan assembled all his men at a certain place 
which he assigned, and there commanded them under very 
great penalties that none of them should dare to drink or 
taste any wine. The reason he gave for this injunction was, 
because he had received private intelligence that it had been 
all poisoned by the Spaniards. Howbeit it was the opinion 
of many he gave these prudent orders to prevent the de- 
bauchery of his people, which he foresaw would be very 
great at the beginning, after so much hunger sustained by 
the way. Fearing withal, lest the Spaniards, seeing them in 
wine, should rally their forces and fall upon the city, and use 
them as inhumanly as they had used the inhabitants before." 
"Exquemelin accuses Morgan of setting fire to the city 
and endeavouring to make the world believe that it was done 
by the Spaniards," Haring writes. "Wm. Frogge, however, 
who was also present, says distinctly that the Spaniards 
fired the town, and Sir William Godolphin, in a letter from 
Madrid to Secretary Arlington on 2nd June, 1671, giving 
news of the exploit which must have come from a Spanish 
source, says that the President of Panama left orders that 
the city if taken should be burnt. Moreover, the President 
of Panama himself, in a letter to Spain, describing the 
event, which was intercepted by the English, admits that 
not the buccaneers but the slaves and the owners of the 
houses set fire to the city. The buccaneers tried in vain 
to extinguish the flames, and the whole town, which was 
built mostly of wood, was consumed by twelve o'clock mid- 
night. The only edifices which escaped were the govern- 
ment buildings, a few churches, and about 300 houses in the 
suburbs. The freebooters remained at Panama twenty- 
eight days seeking plunder and indulging in every variety 
of excess. Excursions were made daily into the country for 
twenty leagues round about to search for booty, and 3,000 
prisoners were brought in." 


It was a barren raid for the pirates. The ships which 
they had seen in the harbor as they descended the moun- 
tains had carried off most of the wealth of the city. Al- 
though they cruised up and down the coast and captured a 
few small boats and some booty the treasure ships escaped. 

"Captain Morgan used to send forth daily parties of two 
hundred men, to make inroads into all the fields and coun- 
try thereabouts, and when one party came back, another 
consisting of two hundred more was ready to go forth. By 
this means they gathered in a short time huge quantities of 
riches, and no less number of prisoners. These being brought 
into the city, were presently put unto the most exquisite 
tortures imaginable, to make them confess both other peo- 
ple's goods and their own. . . . After this execrable 
manner did many of these miserable prisoners finish their 
days, the common sport and recreation of these pirates 
being these and other tragedies not inferior to these. 

"They spared in their cruelties no sex nor condition what- 
soever. For as to religious persons and priests, they granted 
them less quarter than unto others, unless they could pro- 
duce a considerable sum of money, capable of being a suffi- 
cient ransom. Women themselves were no better used. 
. . . Captain Morgan, their leader and commander, gave 
them no good example in this point. . . . 

"On the 24th of February of the year 1671, Captain 
Morgan departed from the City of Panama, or rather from 
the place where the said City of Panama did stand. Of 
the spoils whereof he carried with him one hundred and 
seventy-five beasts of carriage, laden with silver, gold and 
other precious things, besides 600 prisoners, more or less, 
between men, women, children and slaves." 

All through his narrative, Exquemelin is venomous in his 
references to Morgan. Of course he wrote his book after 
his return to Europe where piracy, although a good subject 


for a "best-seller," was not considered a reputable profes- 
sion, so it was necessary for him every few pages to express 
his own abhorrance for such deeds. He goes to considerable 
length to tell how he was captured and forced to join the 
expedition because the pirate needed an apothecary. But I 
think the real reason for his rancor against Sir Henry crops 
out in a passage towards the end of his book. 

After describing the trip back across the Isthmus to Fort 
San Lorenzo at the mouth of the Chagres, Exquemelin says 
that "the dividend was made of all the spoil they had pur- 
chased in that voyage. Thus every company and every 
particular person therein included received their portion of 
what was gotten; or rather what part thereof Captain 
Morgan was pleased to give them. For so it was, that the 
rest of his companions, even of his own nation, complained 
of his proceedings in this particular, and feared not to tell 
him openly to his face, that he had reserved the best jewels 
to himself. For they judged it impossible that no greater 
share should belong unto them than two hundred pieces of 
eight per capita, of so many valuable purchases and rob- 
beries as they had obtained. Which small sum they thought 
too little reward for so much labour and such huge and mani- 
fest dangers as they had so often exposed their lives unto. 
But Captain Morgan was deaf to all these and many other 
complaints of this kind, having designed in his mind to cheat 
them of as much as he could." 

After having risked not only his life but also his reputa- 
tion on this piratical adventure, one can hardly blame 
Exquemelin for harboring a grudge against the man who 
cheated him out of the just proceeds of his robbery. 

The scandal caused by the sack of Panama City Eng- 
land was then at peace with Spain was so great that the 
British Government was forced to suppress buccaneering in 
Jamaica. It was a hard thing to do, for just as the corrupt 


political rings of our cities say that a "wide-open town" 
makes for prosperity, so in Jamaica almost every colonist 
was directly or indirectly interested in the success of the 
buccaneers. At last the English Government decided to 
set a thief to catch the thieves, and knighted Henry Morgan 
and gave him the work of wiping out his old trade. On the 
whole he did a pretty fair job of it. 

Although the old habits persisted for many decades it 
was no longer anything but open piracy. The Spaniards 
were no longer the only prey. 



SOME time in the last quarter of the seventeenth century 
a young Scotch minister came to Jamaica. His name was 
William Paterson. We have no authentic information of 
why he visited the colony nor of what he did there. His 
enemies of whom he later acquired a great multitude 
pretend that he left the Presbyterian Church to go on a 
pirate cruise. There are no proofs of this accusation, but 
he is known to have made the acquaintance of several 
eminent buccaneers, and he certainly had not been destined 
by the Fates for the ministry. 

In 1686 Paterson about thirty years of age returned to 
Europe with a " Scheme of Foreign Trade." He has left 
no written records of this period of his life, no detailed 
account of his " scheme." All we know about his activity 
is from chance allusions to him in the writings of the mer- 
chants of his day. A number of them tell casually of having 
been visited by a young visionary who tried to interest them 
in a Utopian scheme of colonizing the Isthmus of Panama 
and turning it into a great free-trade emporium of the 
Oriental trade. From such scattered allusion we know that 
he travelled over most of Northern Europe, Amsterdam, 
Hamburg, the Hanseatic towns of the Baltic. He seems to 
have dreamed of creating a neutral or international colony 
on the Isthmus, with immense ports on either ocean, con- 
nected by a canal, and concentrating there the trade of the 
Indies. He was also an extreme free trader. And it was 



by freeing these ports of all the monopolistic restrictions, on 
which the trading companies of his day were built, that he 
expected to draw the commerce of the world into his scheme. 

No one would listen to him. So he settled in London and, 
tucking away his dream in a back compartment of his brain, 
he set about making himself a fortune. He developed an 
amazing genius, and within five years, when hardly thirty- 
five years old, he had become a dominant figure in the London 
financial world. His prestige was so great that when, in 1691, 
he proposed to organize a corporation to fund the debts of 
the British Crown, he received a respectful hearing. For 
three years he devoted himself to this project and in 1694 
the English Parliament accepted his proposals and incorpo- 
rated the Bank of England. Paterson was one of the origi- 
nal board of directors. 

The founding of the Bank of England has led us some 
distance from Panama, but we must make one more detour 
before we can find our way to the Scots Colonie at Darien. 

The Glorious Restoration, after the collapse of the Com- 
monwealth, had made the same man king of the two hostile 
countries of England and Scotland. Ever since the Romans 
had built a wall across the Island to keep out the northern 
barbarians, Saxons and Celts had been cutting each other's 
throats at every opportunity. Although King William was 
wearing both crowns, the union was personal, not organic. 
Just as Franz Josef is Emperor of Austria and King of 
Hungary, and as Nicholas is Tsar of Russia and Grand Duke 
of Finland, so William was king of two countries which had 
nothing in common but their sovereign. 

England was one of the most advanced countries indus- 
trially; Scotland was only half emerged from the chrysalis 
of feudalism. From their barren, wind-swept hills the pro- 
gressive Scots were looking with envy and desire on the rich 
commerce of England and wishing to share in it it was this 


desire which later motived the organic union of the two 
countries but it was a bad time for outsiders to try to 
seize a share of profits. It was an age of monopolies. 

The Oriental trade of England was the private property 
of the East India Company. This small group of city mer- 
chants owned the earth and the fulness thereof at least 
all the earth which offered spectacular profits to traders. 
Already firmly established, this Company had so thoroughly 
" built its fences," so entirely "fixed" Parliament that for 
more than a century they were able to rule England almost 
as autocratically as they governed their rapidly growing 
empire in India. 

Some day " A History of Graft" will be written and we will 
most of us be surprised to find how very much less we have 
of it to-day than in the past. Two great events will be 
recorded in such a history. The first will be the time in 
each nation's history when the Privy Purse was definitely 
separated from the National Treasury. When the National 
consciousness had grown to the point of differentiating be- 
tween the people's money and the sovereign's salary, the 
first milestone in the elimination of graft had been passed. 
The second epoch-marking event was when the eighteenth 
century muckrakers of England forced the impeachment of 
Warren Hastings and broke the domination of the East India 
Company over the British Parliament. 

But this second milestone had not been reached at this 
time. England ruled the waves and the East India Company 
ruled England. But a legal monopoly always engenders 
smuggling. This close corporation had secured laws which 
forbade any outsiders to trade in the East. So the outsiders 
did it illegally. The London financial world was divided 
between the Company and the Interlopers. The latter got 
pretty poor pickings, but were always wide awake, always 
looking for some chance to run the legal blockade. 


The progressive element in Scotland saw that dividends 
were rapidly taking the place of divisions of booty and that if 
their country was to have any reputation in the great world 
besides that of being a good recruiting ground for mercenar- 
ies, they must have some commerce. In 1693, while Paterson 
was busy in London founding the Bank of England, the Scots 
Parliament passed an "Act for Encouraging Foreign Trade." 
In effect it said that if any one with capital wanted to get a 
charter for a trading company, Scotland would give him a 
more liberal franchise than any other country. 

When news of this act drifted into London, some of the 
Interlopers pricked up their ears and began to consider the 
possibility of legalizing their Oriental trade under the Scotch 

In May, 1695, James Chiesly, a notorious Interloper, 
brought a proposition to Paterson. Chiesly had a vision of 
breaking into the Oriental trade. Paterson saw a chance of 
bringing to life his old dream of a world centre on the Isth- 
mus. But his early experience had taught him that financiers 
will not subscribe to a dream. So he kept his own counsels 
about Panama, but went into the scheme on the basis which 
Chiesly suggested. Together they drew up a bill and, at 
an opportune moment, when the King was on the Continent 
fighting Louis XIV, slipped it into the Scots Parliament. 
After two weeks of discussion in committee, the bill "An 
act erecting the Company of Scotland, trading in Africa and 
the Indies" was introduced and rushed through on June 
25, 1695. The King's Commissioner touched it with the 
royal scepter and it became a law. 

The Scots Parliament had certainly kept its promise of 
liberality. The act created a monopoly of Scotch foreign 
trade for thirty-one years. For twenty-one years the Com- 
pany was exempt from all taxation, either on its real property 
or its imports. In return for this fat franchise the Company 




was to pay the Scotch Crown an annual tribute of one 
hogshead of tobacco ! Even the powerful English Company 
had not been able to get as great privileges as these from 
their parliament. 

The original plan was to capitalize the Company at 
600,000. Paterson was to raise half the amount in London. 
In outlining his plan of campaign to the directors of the new 
company he wrote: "And for Reasons, we ought to give 
none, but that it is a Fund for the African and Indian 
Company. For if we are not able to raise the Fund by our 
Reputation, we shall hardly do it by our Reason." 

His reputation as founder of the Bank of England was, in 
fact, good for twice the sum. All the " Interlopers " of Lon- 
don were keen to get in on any competition to the English 
Company. All this time, whatever his private plans, Paterson 
never mentioned Panama. The Scots company was put 
before the public as an organization for Oriental trade. The 
London fund was over-subscribed in a few days. 175,000 
were paid in cash. 

But the moment Paterson exploded this bomb, the English 
East India Company woke up. First of all they forced King 
William to denounce the new venture and to say that "he 
had been ill-served in Scotland." They pushed a bill through 
the English Parliament which outlawed the Scotch Company 
in England. Paterson had to cancel the subscription and 
refund the 175,000. Some of the English citizens who had 
accepted positions in the directorate were indicted for high 
treason ! 

The same thing happened abroad. In Hamburg and Am- 
sterdam, Paterson was able to raise large subscriptions 
from those merchants who were outside the great trade 
combine. But the "interests" were able to bring effective 
pressure to bear on the right persons. And the subscrip- 
tions had to be cancelled. 


The Company had to raise its capital at home. Scotland 
was not a rich country but it was patriotic. The natives 
had taken little interest in the Company until it had been 
attacked by perfidious Albion. Now it became a national 
issue. The Scots subscribed 400,000, an immense sum for 
that undeveloped country. The first call of twenty-five per 
cent, brought in 100,000 with promptness. The subscribers 
ranged from duchesses to charwomen. 

This was a much smaller sum than they had first planned 
to start with. But with good management they might have 
made a success at the East India trade. One successful trip 
around the Cape of Good Hope and back often paid the 
whole cost of the ship and a hundred odd per cent, profit. 
However, Paterson had come to Scotland and in secret 
conclave he had opened to the directors his Panama dream. 
"This door of the seas," he told them, "this key of the 
universe, with anything of a sort of good management, will 
of course enable its proprietors to give laws to both oceans 
and to become arbitrators of the commercial world, without 
being liable to the fatigues, expenses and dangers or con- 
tracting the guilt and blood of Alexander and Caesar." 

But they did not have "anything of a sort of good manage- 
ment." Paterson's scheme was impractical, but he was the 
most practical man connected with the Company. His 
London banker, Smyth, defaulted for 8,500 of the Com- 
pany's funds and although Paterson was exonerated, the 
affair discredited him. So the directors tried to carry out 
his scheme without his assistance. 

They spent a year in gathering equipment. Ships were 
built in Amsterdam it is said that Tsar Peter the Great 
served part of his shipbuilding apprenticeship on one of 
them. They commissioned five " Chirugean- Apothecaries " 
to collect sufficient medicaments to last fifteen hundred men 
two years. One agent was to procure as many pistols from 


the gunsmiths of Scotland at seventeen shillings a pair "as 
they'll undertake." They ordered two hundred oxen, "the 
best they can find to be slaughtered at Leith." They bought 
twenty tuns of brandy, thirty barrels of tobacco pipes and 
"50 worth of Bibles and Catechisms." 'And they laid in a 
cargo of merchandise for trade with the Indians. Paterson's 
advice in selecting this equipment would have been inval- 
uable. They neglected it. 

In March, 1698, the Company issued a prospectus calling 
for volunteers to form a colony. 

"Every one who goes on the first Equipage shall Receive 
and Possess Fifty Acres of Plantation Land and 50 Foot 
Square of Ground at least in the Chief City or Town and an 
ordinary House built thereupon by the Company at the 
End of Three Years." 

Their prospectus gave no information as to where the 
colony was to be. But it had been a year of severe famine 
in Scotland. The Peace of Ryswick had deprived many of 
the natives of their regular occupation campaigning in 
Flanders. The enterprise had become a national fad. It 
was "Hurrah for the Scots Company and down with the 
English." So many volunteered that the directors were able 
to withdraw the original favorable offer and recruit twelve 
hundred men on terms which amounted to indentured serv- 
itude. There were also three hundred gentleman volunteers, 
most of whom were ex-officers from the Dutch Wars. 

When everything was ready the split in the board of 
directors between the Church and Kirk parties, which had 
long been brewing, came to a head. In choosing an executive 
council for the expedition, the Kirk faction won. Whether 
or not the Church candidates were better men we cannot tell. 
But the seven men chosen because of their staunch allegi- 
ance to the Presbyterian form of church government were 
entirely unfit. In all the output of pamphlets for and against 


the Company and it was an age of pamphleteering I have 
not found a single author who had any good words for this 
council. Paterson, the only man who knew anything about 
trade or the Indies, was not one of them. He went along as 
a gentleman volunteer with "his Wife, her Maid and his 
Clerk, Thomas Fenton." 

On July 26, 1698, the fleet, three ships and two tenders, 
sailed from Leith. The council had received "sealed orders" 
to be opened at Madeira. Very few of all the expedition 
knew their destination. A few days out they took an invoice 
of their cargo and provision and so discovered a new fraud. 
Someone it seems to have been with the connivance of 
some of the directors had falsified the bills of lading. In- 
stead of provisions for six months, they had barely enough 
for two. 

August 29th they reached Madeira. The orders instructed 
them to proceed to the "Golden Island in the Bay of Acla" 
and found a colony to be called New Caledonia. One of the 
councillors resigned apparently in disgust when he discov- 
ered that they were not going to the East Indies, and Pater- 
son was elected in his place. But the council had already 
acquired the habit of distrust and mutual suspicion. They 
spent some time at Madeira replenishing their scanty pro- 
visions. The gentleman volunteers parted with most of their 
rich garments in exchange for wine and food. 

On November 1st they reached their destination. The 
Indians welcomed them. The tribes of the San Bias coast 
had always been at war with the Spaniards; they had fre- 
quently been valuable allies to the English buccaneers. And 
they received the Scots with enthusiasm. Mr. Rose's diary 
for November 8th says "Wind and Weather as above. There 
hath been a great number of Indians aboard the ships, 
whom wee use very kindly and who consume a great deal of 


The new town, to be called New Edinburgh, was at once 
started, as was also the Fort of St. Andrew at the mouth of 
the bay. But the quarrels among the council, which had 
started before they were out of sight of Scotland, now broke 
out with redoubled venom over the question of who should 
be chief executive of the colony. At last they adopted the 
insane expedient of having each councillor in turn serve for 
one week. 

In a letter which they sent home to the directors in 
December, 1698, it is evident that the colony is already in 
a bad way. A list is given of the dead. Forty-four had died 
on the trip out, including the two ministers, and thirty-two 
more had died between landing and Christmas Day. In one 
case the cause of death was given as "decay," another "died 
suddenly after warm walking," four had been drowned. All 
the rest had fallen victims to either "Flux" or "Fever." 
In this list are the names of Paterson's wife and clerk and of 
a boy who seems to have been his son. 

Another cause of trouble was that while most of the coun- 
cil were strict members of the Kirk, the rank and file were the 
rapscallion remnants from the wars in the low countries. 
The moral ideas of the council were even stricter than those 
of the Plymouth colony. But if they had put all the Sabbath 
breakers in the stocks as they thought they ought to do 
there would have been no laborers left to build houses nor 
till the fields. In this December letter to the officials at home 
the council laments over the godlessness of their flock and 
begs the Company to send them some powerful preachers on 
the next boat. 

But in spite of these troubles they issued on December 
28th a resounding proclamation. The following paragraph 
with its strange mixture of Paterson's dream of universal 
free trade and the religious fanaticism of the Kirk party is 
typical of the entire enterprise. 


"And we do hereby not only grant and concede and 
declare a general and equal freedom of government and 
trade to those of all nations who shall hereafter be of or con- 
cerned with us; but also a full and free liberty of Conscience 
in matters of Religion, so as the same be not understood to 
allow, connive at, or indulge the blasphemy of God's Holy 
Name or any of His Divine Attributes, or the unhallowing 
or profaning of the Sabbath Day." 

Trouble was also threatening them from their Spanish 
neighbors. The San Bias Indians were beginning to get 
impatient for the expected war. But the colonists wanted 
peace which was of course impossible. Even if the Spanish 
king had approved of their settling in his territory, it would 
have been impossible for the Kirk and the Inquisition to have 
existed side by side. 

On February 5th a small boat, the Dolphin Snow, belonging 
to the Scots was driven by a storm onto the rocks near the 
Spanish citadel of Cartagena. The crew were imprisoned 
as pirates and sent to Spain for trial. The same day the 
Indians reported that some soldiers were approaching over- 
land from Panama. And on the 6th there was a skirmish. 
The Spaniards were only a scouting party and were easily 
driven back. When the news of the Dolphin Snow's fate 
reached the colony they declared war by granting letters- 
of-mark to a Captain Pilkington. He cruised up and down 
the coast, but only succeeded in capturing a deserted schooner 
which was probably the property of some pirate. 

Meanwhile their enemies in England had not been quiet. 
The great East India Company had doubtless been relieved 
to hear that, instead of going in for the sure profits of the 
Orient, they had launched a very doubtful venture in the 
New World. But the London merchants were not the kind 
to brook any competition and they at last succeeded in forcing 
King William to emphasize his repudiation of the Scots Com- 


pany by sending out a proclamation to all the colonial 
governors forbidding them to give any aid or countenance, 
or to enter into any intercourse with the Darien Colony. 
On April 5th Governor Beeston published the proclamation 
in Kingston, Jamaica. About the same time similar action 
was taken by the governors of Barbadoes and New York. 
But the vexation which his Scotch subjects had caused the 
King was by no means over. On May 3d his morning's mail 
contained an elaborate document which began as follows: 

"The Under-Subscriber, Ambassador Extraordinary from 
his Catholick Majesty, finds himself obliged by express Or- 
ders, to represent to your Majesty, that the King, his Master, 
having received Information from different Places and last 
of all from the Governor of Havana, of the Insult and Attempt 
of some Scots Ships, equipp'd with Men and other Things 
requisite, who design to settle themselves in his Majesty's 
Sovereign Domains in America and particularly the Province 
of Darien, His Majesty receiv'd those Advices with much 
Discontent and looks upon the same as a Token of small 
Friendship and as a Rupture of the Alliance betwixt the two 
Crowns. . , ." These Scotch traders had not only set 
his own kingdoms by the ears, but were threatening to in- 
volve him in a foreign war! 

It took some time for the news of these hostile proclama- 
tions to reach the colonists. Meanwhile sickness increased 
apace, no reinforcements came from home, dissensions grew 
in the council. News came from every side that the Spaniards 
were threatening an attack. A French trading vessel brought 
the report that Armadas were being fitted out at Cartagena 
and Puerto Bello. The Indians told of large bodies of troops 
advancing from Panama. Sir Henry Morgan had crossed the 
Isthmus with a handful of men and had sacked that metrop- 
olis of the southern sea. But these nine hundred odd Scotch- 
men emaciated by the fever, split into hostile cliques were 


not of the same spirit. When the news of the proclamation 
shutting off all hope of provisions or reinforcements from any 
place nearer than Scotland fell on them like a thunderbolt, 
they all clamored for a speedy retreat. A few brave spirits 
tried to hold the colony together. But on June 5th Paterson 
was hit by the fever and then it became a scramble to get 
on board. The last boat, carrying the delirious Paterson, 
left the harbor on June 20th. She carried two hundred and 
fifty deserters. They had a terrible voyage; one hundred 
and fifty of them had died before they rounded Sandy Hook 
on the 13th of August. 

Meanwhile the Company at home, having no news of this 
disaster, was sending out glowing accounts of the colony. 
One of them, "A Letter, giving a Description of the Isthmus 
of Darien (where the Scot's Colonie is settled)" is typical. 
It describes an earthly Paradise as fanciful as that Garden 
of Perpetual Youth which had enticed Ponce de Leon. 
Another, "The History of Caledonia, or The Scot's Colony 
in Darien in the West Indies. With an Account of the 
Manners of the Inhabitants and Richs of the Country. By 
a Gentleman lately Arriv'd" says "The Valleys are watered 
with Rivers and Perpetual clear Springs, which are most 
pleasant to drink, being as soft as Milk and very Nourish- 
ing." Still another prospectus writer says: "We saw Am- 
brosio's (a native chief) Grandmother there who is 120 years 
old and yet very active. . . . The People live here to be 150 
and 160 Years of Age." Not content with prose the enthu- 
siasm gave birth to verse. A rhymed advertisement entitled 
"A Poem upon the Undertaking of the Royal Company of 
Scotland, trading to Africa and The Indies," contains this 
lyrical outburst: 

"The Company designs a Colony 
To which all Nations freely may resort 
And find quick Justice in an Open Port." 


On the basis of this publicity campaign the Company was 
able to collect another 100,000 of the subscribed capital. 
Just when the first colony was deserting New Edinburgh, 
two ships, The Olive Branch and the Hopeful Binning of 
Bo'ness and three hundred settlers sailed from Scotland. 
They arrived at the deserted fort of St. Andrew on the same 
day in August when the wreck of the first expedition was 
docking in New York. While they were deciding whether 
or not to land, some roysterers of the crew broke into the 
hold of the Olive Branch to get some brandy, and in their 
drunkenness set her on fire. She burned down to the water 
with the greater part of their provisions. The disheart- 
ened colonists crowded on board the Hopeful Binning and 
voted to give it up. However, twelve brave men re- 
fused to turn back; they landed with a few provisions 
and watched this second expedition sail away to Jamaica. 
An epidemic broke out on the crowded ship and most 
of them died before, or immediately after, reaching Kings- 

The Company, knowing nothing of all this, was busy col- 
lecting money and fitting out a third and greatest expedition. 
By the middle of September, four fine ships, The Rising Sun, 
The Hope, The Duke of Hamilton, and The Hope of Bo'ness, 
with thirteen hundred men aboard, were riding at anchor in 
the Clyde. About the 20th rumors came from New York 
about the abandonment of New Edinburgh. The directors 
dispatched an express to the fleet telling the councillors not 
to leave until further orders. These worthy gentlemen, 
fearing that delay might mean that someone else was to be 
put in their places, disobeyed orders and set sail. It was 
the 24th of September, 1699, when they left the Clyde. One 
hundred and sixty died on the trip out. They arrived in the 
harbor of New Edinburgh on the 30th of November, and were 
mightily dismayed to find no one there but the twelve men 


who had lived with the Indians since the burning of The 
Olive Branch. 

James Byres, a pillar of the Kirk, urged a retreat, saying 
that "they were come not to settle a colony, but to reinforce 
one." For once he was overruled and the company landed. 
By some strange chance this arrant coward became the 
dominant power in the council. After it was all over the 
board of directors, after an investigation of his conduct, 
declared that he had "not only violated the trust reposed 
in him by the Company, . . . but was also guilty of several 
unwarrantable, arbitrary, illegal and inhuman actings and 

They had hardly landed when Byres started a trial for 
high treason over which he had no legal jurisdiction and 
on very slim testimony executed a man named Alexander 

Once more the colonists discovered that there had been 
fraud in the outfitting of the expedition. The merchandise 
which they had been told was worth many thousand pounds 
in colonial trade, turned out to be valueless. "We cannot 
conceive," they wrote to the directors, "for what end so 
much thin gray paper and so many little blue bonnets were 
sent here, being entirely useless and not worth their room 
in the ship." Some of the directors who were overstocked 
in these commodities had unloaded them profitably on the 
colonists. They also found that there was not nearly so 
much brandy on board as they had paid for. 

Strong drink played a role in this enterprise which is 
hardly conceivable to people of to-day. That men who were 
such ardent defenders of the Kirk should have been shame- 
less drunkards seems strange in this age when most of our 
clergy are prominent in the temperance movement. 

A letter from the directors to the colony, dated June 13th, 
1700, contains this surprising recommendation: 


"We understand that Andrew Livingston, Chirurgeon, late 
prisoner in Cartagena, has made his escape and returned 
to the Colony. We, therefore, desire that for the said Andrew 
Livingston's encouragement at present, you would order him 
four gallons of brandy for his proper use, over and above the 
common allowance." 

The General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland had ap- 
pointed four ministers to accompany this third expedition. 
They were especially instructed to convert the savages and 
Spaniards. However, the ministers seem to have considered 
any missionary work as impossible. They gave most of their 
attention to the colonists and were a source of constant 

The Rev. Mr. Francis Borland, one of the four, wrote a 
"History of Darien." It is rather dreary reading, mostly 
given up to complaints and on the whole tends to substantiate 
the claim of Sir John Dalrymple that these ministers were 
the principal cause of the disorganization and disaster which 
overwhelmed the colony. 

"The people that our Company of Scotland sent over, 
hither," Borland writes, "were most of them . . . none of 
the best of men. And therefore the Ministers sent along 
with them had small comfort in their company; their in- 
structions and admonitions were but little regarded by them; 
many of them seldom, and some of them never, attending the 
public worship of God." 

These ministers expected to be "comforted" instead of to 
act as "comforters." 

When they arrived at New Edinburgh and found it 
deserted they announced that it was the evident Wrath of 
God because of the impiety of the company. They got up 
an amazing document it is quoted at length in Borland 
and seems to have been written by him ordering the council 
to set aside a day for Thanksgiving, Humility and Prayer. 


Among the sins enumerated were "atheistical swearing and 
cursing." There is something pathetic in the thought of 
these ex-soldiers of Flanders, suddenly brought to book for 
swearing. January 3, 1700, was the day chosen by the 
council. Three sermons were preached, one on Thanksgiving, 
one on Humility and one on Prayer. The service lasted until 
three in the afternoon. And this was only a beginning. 
Dalrymple writes: "They exhausted the patience of the 
people by long services. ... In addition to the usual ob- 
servation of the Sabbath, Wednesday was selected as a day 
of devotion; and so much was the regular service augmented 
that it frequently lasted twelve hours without interruption." 

But the greatest cause of their unpopularity was their 
arrogance. They refused to work. The colony was faced 
by the necessity of creating a town, tilling fields for its main- 
tenance, building forts for its protection. In this work the 
ministers would take no part. Besides demanding that the 
workers should give up two precious days a week to hearing 
their sermons, they insisted that first of all four manses 
should be built for them. Any one who suggested that some- 
thing else might be more important than their comfort they 
denounced as godless and impious. Through Byres they 
managed to rule the council. 

These four men furnish a strange contrast to the other 
efforts to transplant the religions of Europe to the New 
World. Catholicism seriously tried to convert the aborigines. 
Some of the priests sent out by the Council of the Indies 
were despicable men. But on the whole it was one of the 
most devoted and spiritual missionary movements in the 
history of the church as it was also the most successful. 

The Protestant colonies hardly made any effort to convert 
the Indians. And on the whole the few devoted men who 
tried to failed. But of all efforts to establish European 
denominations in America this attempt of the Kirk of Scot- 


land was the most dismal failure. The Puritans of New 
England did not differ from them much in theology. The old 
" Round Head" philosophy, " Trust in God and keep your 
powder dry" carried the Plymouth Colony over its hard 
places. These Scotch Presbyterians did not realize the value 
of dry powder. 

Things got so bad at last that nine men stole a canoe and 
deserted, preferring rather to risk the Spanish prisons than 
to live longer in this Kirk-ridden colony. 

The Indians began bringing in news of war preparations 
on the part of the Spaniards. But Byres scoffed at such news. 
And the Rev. Mr. Francis Borland preached an able sermon 
on the Scarlet Woman of Rome. However, when the danger 
became imminent, Byres appointed himself a delegate to 
go to Jamaica to try to persuade the governor to ignore the 
royal proclamation and give them some provisions. 

In a letter of the Rev. Alexander Shields dated February 
21st, just after Byres had decided it was time for him to 
leave, I find this description of conditions: 

"Our sickness did so increase (above 220 at the same time 
in fever and fluxes) and our rotten provisions were found 
to be so far exhausted, that we were upon the very point 
of leaving." They were prevented from abandoning the 
colony, he continues, by the direct intervention of Provi- 

This Divine Help consisted in a shipload of provisions 
and, what was even more important, a real man Captain 
Campbell of Finab. He was of the Kirk party, but at the 
same time had a valuable fund of common sense. He put his 
foot down on the petty squabbles of the council, put men of 
action in the posts of importance and mustered a little army. 
On the 14th of February he made a dash into the jungle, 
guided by the allied Indians, surprised and completely 
destroyed a large force of Spanish soldiers from Panama 


Neither Drake nor Sir Henry Morgan could boast of a more 
brilliant feat of arms. 

The ship in which Captain Campbell had come returned 
to Scotland with an account of this victory. When the news 
got abroad in Edinburgh the famous "Pate Steil's Parlia- 
ment" assembled in the "Cross Keys Tavern" and decreed 
that the city should be illuminated. They broke into St. 
Giles Church. And soon the chimes, clanging out the ribald 
tune, "Wilful Willie, wilst thou be wilful still," sent all the 
housewives scurrying about for candles. All Edinburgh 
understood and knew what it meant to disobey the decrees 
of the people. All night long the mob wandered through the 
streets, throwing stones through every window which was 
not lit up. Old Edinburgh had not had such a celebration 
in many years. Once more the "Company" became the 
popular enthusiasm of the nation. 

But this good news was the last to come out of New Edin- 
burgh. On the 23d of February eight Spanish men-of-war 
arrived off the harbor and began the blockade. Two days 
later they were reinforced by three more ships-of-the-line. 
The wrath of the Catholic king over this Presbyterian inva- 
sion had been slow moving, but it was formidable. They 
landed forces on both sides of the colony and began a regular 

Captain Campbell led a number of brilliant sorties. But 
the Spaniards stuck to their trenches which they were 
gradually pushing forward and refused to risk a fight in 
the open. On the 17th of March the Scots were forced out 
of their advance works and driven back into their main fort. 
By the 21st the Spaniards had pushed their trenches to 
within musket shot and so had cut off the supply of fresh 
water. In the records which the Scots left I find these 
phrases: "The bread was mouldy and corrupt with worms, 
and the flesh most unsavory and ill-scented." . . . "Some- 


times we buried sixteen men in a day." . . . "We could 
hardly make out 300 able men fit for service. " . . . "The 
water in our casks was sour." 

On the 31st of March they came to the end of their endur- 
ance and surrendered, on condition that they could leave 
"with their colours flying, and drums beating, together with 
their arms and ammunition and with all their goods." 

They were so worn by hunger and disease that the Span- 
iards helped them get their ships out of the harbor. It was 
the llth of April, 1700, when they finally left. The sickness 
which had decimated them ashore followed them aboard and 
became epidemic. Out of the thirteen hundred who had 
sailed from the Clyde only three hundred and sixty lived 
through the expedition. The survivors "were mostly dis- 
persed in Jamaica and the English settlements of America, 
and very few returned to Scotland." 

"The Company of Scotland, trading to Africa and The 
Indies" was bankrupt. They had squandered two thousand 
lives and over 200,000 on Paterson's dream. 

But the dreamer, recovering from the fever in New York, 
returned to Scotland and became again the practical man of 
affairs. Paterson spent the remainder of his life in a success- 
ful effort to pay back twenty shillings to the pound on this 
immense debt. 



GREAT as were the depredations of the " Lutheran Pirates," 
this was not the main reason for the decline of the Spanish 

" Panama," writes Bancroft, "had comparatively little 
indigenous wealth and was largely dependent for prosperity 
on Spain's colonial policy. Unfortunately this was char- 
acterized by a short-sightedness which eventually proved 
disastrous both to the province and empire." 

After the first rush of golden spoils from Peru had crossed 
the Isthmus, its prosperity began to decline. For a while 
the silver from the Potosi mines and scattering consignments 
of booty from the west coast of Central America furnished an 
appearance of business activity. But gradually these sources 
of wealth ran dry, and no local industries, either on the 
Isthmus itself or in the colonies which used it as a trade route, 
had been developed. And so gradually the life of Panama 
was smothered. No more expeditions outfitted in its harbor. 
No returning argosies brought commerce to its market place. 
The death rate from "fevers and fluxes" continued high and 
fewer and fewer immigrants arrived from Europe. Even 
the Creoles born on the Isthmus left for more healthy cli- 
mates. Very few whites remained in the city which had 
been once so proud. 

Mr. Haring in the introductory chapters of his "The 
Buccaneers in the West Indies" gives a very able analysis 
of the fundamental causes which led up to this remarkable 



"At the time of the discovery of America the Spaniards, 
as M. Leroy-Beaulieu has remarked, were perhaps less 
fitted than any other nation in Western Europe for the task 
of American colonization. Whatever may have been the 
political role thrust upon them in the sixteenth century by the 
Hapsburg marriages, whatever certain historians may say of 
the grandeur and nobility of the Spanish national character, 
Spain was then neither rich nor populous, nor industrious. 
For centuries she had been called upon to wage a continuous 
warfare with the Moors, and during this time had not only 
found little leisure to cultivate the arts of peace, but had 
acquired a certain disdain for manual work which helped 
to mould her colonial administration and influenced all her 
subsequent history. And when the termination of the last 
of these wars left her mistress of a united Spain, and the 
exploitation of her own resources seemed to require all the 
energies she could muster, an entire new hemisphere was 
suddenly thrown open to her, and given into her hands by a 
papal decree to possess and populate. Already weakened 
by the exile of the most sober and industrious of her popula- 
tion, the Jews; drawn into a foreign policy for which she 
had neither the means nor the inclination; instituting at 
home an economic policy which was almost epileptic in its 
consequences, she found her strength dissipated, and gradu- 
ally sank into a condition of economic and political im- 
potence. . . . 

"The colonization of the Spanish Indies, on its social and 
administrative side, presents a curious contrast. On the one 
hand, we see the Spanish Crown, with high ideals of order 
and justice, of religious and political unity, extending to its 
ultramarine possessions its faith, its language, its laws and 
its administration ; providing for the welfare of the aborigines 
with paternal solicitude; endeavoring to restrain and temper 
the passions of the conquerors; building churches and founding 


schools and monasteries; in a word, trying to make its colonies 
an integral part of the Spanish monarchy. . . . Some 
Spanish writers, it is true, have exaggerated the virtues of 
their old colonial system; yet that system had excellencies 
which we cannot afford to despise. If the Spanish kings had 
not choked their government with procrastination and rou- 
tine; if they had only taken their task a bit less seriously 
and had not tried to apply too strictly to an empty continent 
the paternal administration of an older country, we might 
have been privileged to witness the development and opera- 
tion of as complete and benign a system of colonial govern- 
ment as has been devised in modern times. The public 
initiative of the Spanish government, and the care with 
which it selected its colonies, compare very favorably with 
the opportunism of the English and French, who colonized 
by chance private activity and sent the worst elements of 
their population, criminals and vagabonds, to people their 
new settlements across the sea. However much we may 
deprecate the treatment of the Indians by the conquistadores, 
we must not forget that the greater part of the population 
of Spanish America to-day is still Indian, and that no other 
colonizing people have succeeded like the Spaniards in 
assimilating and civilizing the natives. The code of laws 
which the Spaniards gradually evolved for the rule of their 
transmarine provinces, was, in spite of defects which are 
visible only to the larger experience of the present day, one 
of the wisest, most humane and best coordinated of any to 
this day published for any colony. Although the Spaniards 
had to deal with a large population of barbarous natives, 
the word "conquest" was suppressed in legislation as ill- 
sounding, ' because the peace is to be sealed,' they said, 
'not with the sound of arms, but with charity and good- 

"The actual results, however, of the social policy of the 


Spanish kings fell far below the ideals they had set for them- 
selves. The monarchic spirit of the crown was so strong 
that it crushed every healthy expansive tendency in the new 
countries. It burdened the colonies with numerous privi- 
leged nobility, who congregated mostly in the larger towns, 
and set to the rest of the colonists a pernicious example of 
idleness and luxury. In its zeal for the propagation of the 
Faith, the Crown constituted a powerfully endowed church, 
which, while it did splendid service in converting and civiliz- 
ing the natives, engrossed much of the land in the form of 
mainmort, and filled the new world with thousands of idle, 
unproductive, and often licentious friars. . . . 

"In this fashion was transferred to America the crushing 
political and ecclesiastical absolutism of the mother country. 
Self-reliance and independence of thought or action on the 
part of the Creoles were discouraged, divisions and factions 
among them were encouraged and educational opportunities 
restricted, and the American-born Spaniards gradually sank 
into idleness and lethargy, indifferent to all but childish 
honours and distinctions and petty local jealousies. To 
make matters worse, many of the Spaniards who crossed the 
seas to the American colonies came not to colonize, not to 
trade or cultivate the soil, so much as to extract from the 
natives a tribute of gold and silver. The Indians, instead of 
being protected and civilized, were only too often reduced to 
serfdom and confined to a laborious routine for which they 
had neither aptitude nor the strength; while the government 
at home was too distant to interfere effectively in their 
behalf. Driven by cruel taskmasters they died by thousands 
from exhaustion and despair, and in some places entirely 
disappeared. . . . 

"In the colonies the most striking feature of Spanish 
economic policy was its wastefulness. After the conquest 
of the New World, it was to the interest of the Spaniards to 


gradually wean the native Indians from barbarism by 
teaching them the arts and sciences of Europe, to encourage 
such industries as were favored by the soil, and to furnish 
the growing colonies with those articles which they could 
not produce themselves, and of which they stood in need. 
Only thus could they justify their monopolies of the markets 
of Spanish America. . . . Queen Isabella wished to 
carry out this policy, introduced into the newly-discovered 
islands wheat, the olive and the vine, and acclimatized many 
of the European domestic animals. Her efforts, unfortunate- 
ly, were not seconded by her successors, nor by the Spaniards 
who went to the Indies. In time the government itself, 
as well as the colonist, came to be concerned, not so much 
with the agricultural products of the Indies, but with the 
return of the precious metals. Natives were made to work 
the mines, while many regions adapted to agriculture, Guiana, 
Caracas and Buenos Ayres, were neglected, and the peopling 
of the colonies by Europeans was slow. The emperor, 
Charles V, did little to stem this tendency, but drifted along 
with the tide. Immigration was restricted to keep the col- 
onies free from contamination of heresy and of foreigners. 
The Spanish population was concentrated in cities, and the 
country divided into great estates granted by the crown 
to the families of the conquistadores or to favorites at court. 
The immense areas of Peru, Buenos Ayres and Mexico were 
submitted to the most unjust and arbitrary regulations, 
with no object but to stifle growing industry and put them 
in absolute dependence upon the metropolis. It was forbid- 
den to exercise the trades of dyer, fuller, weaver, shoemaker 
or hatter, and the natives were compelled to buy of the Span- 
iards even the stuffs they wore on their backs. Another or- 
dinance prohibited the cultivation of the vine and the olive 
except in Peru and Chili, and even these provinces might not 
send their oil and wine to Panama, Guatemala or any other 






place which could be supplied from Spain. To maintain the 
commercial monopoly, legitimate ports of entry in Spanish 
America were made few and far apart for Mexico, Vera 
Cruz; for Granada, the town of Cartagena. The islands 
and most of the other provinces were supplied by uncertain 
"vaisseaux c? registre," while Peru and Chili, finding all 
direct commerce by the Pacific or South Sea interdicted, were 
obliged to resort to the fever-ridden town of Porto Bello, 
where the mortality was enormous and the prices increased 

" In Spain, likewise, the colonial commerce was restricted 
to one port, Seville. For in the estimation of the crown 
it was much more important to avoid being defrauded of its 
dues on import and export, than to permit the natural 
development of trade by those towns best fitted to acquire 
it. ..." 

Just as Las Casas was always favorably received at court, 
but almost always found that the most beneficent laws 
could not or would not be enforced by the colonial officers, 
so it turned out in regard to all the fair plans which the 
Spanish kings made for the administration. Undoubtedly 
the home government took its duty toward the New World 
with more seriousness than did the other nations. But the 
agents sent out to enforce the royal will were almost to a man 
unprincipled malefactors. 

De la Rios, the governor of Panama, who succeeded 
Pedrarias while on the whole a mild mannered man and not 
notable for his cruelty had, according to Bancroft, a thirst for 
riches which surpassed the greed of his miserly predecessor. 
So corrupt was his administration that he was sent back to 
Spain in 1529 and convicted of malfeasance in office. An- 
tonio de la Gama was governor until 1534 when he was dis- 
placed in disgrace and Francisco de Barrionuevo put in 
his place. 


Under the administration of this military despot, it became 
the turn for the white men to suffer. His predecessors had 
thoroughly despoiled the natives and his only hope of ' ' get- 
ting his" was to force loans from the merchants. A con- 
temporary writer says: "Only that an ocean lay between 
Charles and his down-trodden subjects, nineteen out of 
twenty would have thrown themselves at his feet to pray 
for justice." 

Bancroft writes, that "of Pedro Vazquez, who succeeded 
Barrionuevo as governor of Castilla del Oro, little is known, 
but of Doctor Robles, the successor of Vazquez, under whose 
administration the government was continued till 1546, it 
is alleged, and probably with truth, that he wrought more 
harm to his fellowmen in a twelvemonth than the malign 
genius of a Pedrarias even could accomplish in a decade." 

Robles was thrown out by the rebellion of Gonzalo Pizarro 
and when the royal authority was restored the new series of 
officials finding that both the natives and the colonists had 
been milked dry by former administrations had to turn their 
attention to the royal treasury. In 1579 a Corregidor of 
Panama confessed on his death bed to having embezzled 
over six thousand pesos de oro. In 1594 half a dozen city 
officials formed a "ring" and between them cleaned up a 
sum about equal to $1,500,000 in our money. 

And beside the ravages of the official wolves the Isthmus 
suffered a great deal from civil war. Between the discovery 
of Peru and Morgan's raid, the city of Panama was sacked 
and partially destroyed by Spaniards four several times. 

At the time of Gonzalo Pizarro's rebellion, some of his 
ships under Hernando Bachicao captured the town, burned 
down a large part of it, hung every one who would not shout 
"Viva Pizarro." The rebels indulged in an orgy of lust 
and bloodshed until Hinojosa, Pizarro's admiral, appeared 
and restored order. During the next six months Nombre de 


Dios, the other city of the Isthmus, was captured three times. 
Twice by the rebels and once by a loyalist force from Car- 

In March, 1550, de la Gasca reached Panama after his 
successful suppression of the Peruvian rebellion. It re- 
quired 1,200 mules to carry his store of royal treasure across 
the Isthmus. The last pack train had only left the city a 
few hours when a large fleet entered the harbor from the north. 
It was under the command of some brothers named Contrera, 
one of whom had been governor of Nicaragua. They had 
run amuck and gathering a couple of hundred desperadoes 
had set out to capture de la Gasca's treasure and then go on 
to Peru where they planned to establish a separate kingdom. 
They are said to have damaged Panama to the extent of 
$5,000,000. But when they tried to follow de la Gasca across 
the Isthmus they became entangled in the jungle, their forces 
were scattered and cut up in piecemeal. 

Added to these civil disturbances, a new danger came from 
the Cimarrones. 

These escaped negro slaves became so formidable that in 
1554, a determined effort was begun to exterminate them. 

Pedro de Ursua with two hundred soldiers was sent against 
"King" Bayano, the most formidable Cimarrone chieftain 
near Panama. There were six hundred negroes in this 
band and it took de Ursua two years of uninterrupted cam- 
paigning before he finally captured Bayano, and was able 
to send him to Spain as a prisoner. 

However, this was only a beginning. The number of the 
Cimarrones constantly increased. They fought with des- 
perate bravery, always preferring death to recapture. The 
campaign against them waxed and waned. News would come 
to Panama that the inhabitants of an outlying hacienda 
had been massacred and the governor would send out some 
soldiers to discipline the bandits. But the negroes were 


at home in the jungle. The Spaniards would slash about 
in the heavy underbrush a week or so and come back to town 
with little accomplished. And every success of the Cimar- 
rones encouraged more slaves to escape. 

In 1574 the Spaniards were forced to the humiliation of 
making a treaty of peace with their former servants. They 
recognized the freedom of the Cimarrones and in return 
received a pledge that in the future runaway slaves would 
be returned. But to the credit of the negroes this pledge 
was not kept and hostilities broke out afresh. Four years later 
Pedro de Ortega Valencia was given special orders to exter- 
minate them. But he fared little better than those who 
' had tried it before. 

To a certain degree the Cimarrones threatened the lives 
of the Spaniards, but to a much greater extent they 
threatened, by constantly depleting the labor-market, to 
paralyze what little industry there was. 

An official document of the day shows that in 1570 there 
were two thousand negro slaves a third of whom were 
women employed in fifteen gold mines in the western 
part of the Isthmus; ten years later all were closed but 

The labor problem was very serious. By the end of the 
sixteenth century almost all of the native Indians had dis- 
appeared from the Isthmus except in the eastern part, now 
called "The Darien." The fashion of slave-stealing and 
murder set by Pedrarias and Espinosa had never been 
checked. A royal Cedula of 1593 calls attention to the fact 
"that no one had been brought to justice for any of the 
extortions or cruelties to which the Indians had been sub- 
jected." Two centuries after Columbus's voyage to the 
Isthmus, full-blooded Indians in Panama were about as 
rare as they are in New York to-day. The white men would 
not work, and it was negro labor or none at all. And the 


slaves escaped to the jungle more rapidly than they could 
be brought to the Isthmus. 

The maladministration on the part of the colonial officials 
and the constant wars and alarums would have made any 
healthy development of industry almost impossible. The 
economic policy of the mother country which Haring refers 
to as "almost epileptic," was an even more deadly blight 
on the colony. 

It was frankly monopolistic. Instead of taxing colonial 
products enough to give the home manufacturer an unfair ad- 
vantage, as we do, the Spanish government either forbade the 
industry or the importation of the product. Their method 
had the advantage over our " protective tariff" of being 
simpler and more easily understood. Everyone knew, al- 
though there were political economists even in those days, 
that certain merchants of Spain had control of the Council 
of the Indies and so of the throne. 

A few enterprising colonists began grape culture in Peru. 
They had grown up in a wine country and soon began 
turning out a fairly good grade. Some of it was imported 
to Spain, but that was at once forbidden. The colonial 
wine, however, soon became popular in Panama and offered 
a strong competition with home vintages. Thus threatened 
in their profits, the Spanish wine growers sent a lobby to 
Madrid and soon Philip II signed a Cedula, dated September 
16, 1586, which forbade the sale of any wine on the Isthmus 
except such as was imported from Spain. Its two logical 
markets closed, the Peruvian wine growing died out it is 
just beginning to be revived. 

This incident was typical. No industry was permitted 
which could supply the colonists with any article manufact- 
ured in Spain. 

But the merchant princes of Seville were not only jealous 
of colonial industry; they were equally hostile and they 


controlled the government to competition in commerce. 
In a preceding chapter (XVII) I quoted a letter from a 
merchant in Panama which indicates that there was con- 
siderable trade between that port and the Orient. The 
"business interests" of Spain wanted this fat plum for 
themselves and this traffic was forbidden. A Cedula of 
1593 three years later than the letter quoted says : 

"Toleration and abuse have caused an undue increase in 
the trade between the West Indies and China, and a con- 
sequent decrease in that of the Castilian kingdom. To 
remedy this it is again ordered that neither from Tierra 
Firma, Peru, nor elsewhere, except New Spain (Mexico) shall 
any vessel go to China or the Philippine Islands to trade." 

If this through trade with the Orient had not been so 
arbitrarily cut off, the Isthmus would never have been for- 
gotten by the world and the canal might have been built 
years ago. 

Even the pearl trade Panama's one indigenous industry 
came to grief. At one time as many as thirty ships were 
engaged in fishing. In 1587 six hundred pounds of high 
grade pearls were received in Seville. But no withstraint was 
put on the fishing and the oyster banks gave out. 

In 1589 more than ninety ships came to the Atlantic ports 
of the Isthmus. In 1601 the number had dropped to thirty- 
two, in 1605 to seventeen. 

Even the trade down the Pacific coast between Panama 
and Peru was often interrupted for long periods. Hakluyt 
gives an account which says that Panama city was short 
of provisions, ". . . . for there is none to be had for any 
money, by reasons that from Lima there is no shipping come 
with maiz . . . But I can certifie . . . that all 
things are very deeire here, and that we stand in great ex- 
tremetie for want of victuals." 

This insane economic policy could result only in killing 


the colonies it could not enforce a real monopoly. Such 
"restraints of trade" inevitably produce smuggling. Just as 
moonshine whiskey is distilled in the United States, and 
matches are smuggled into France, so in the Spanish colonies 
illicit trade and contraband manufacture sprang up every- 
where. In the face of the exceedingly high prices charged 
by the monopolists of Seville, the English, French and Dutch 
traders could run all the immense risks of smuggling and 
still make big profits. 

In "A History of the Voyages and Travels of Captain 
Nathaniel Uring," I find this frank avowal: 

"In the Beginning of the Year 1711, I went over in a 
Sloop, well mann'd and arm'd, to trade on the Coast of 
New Spain, and we carried with us a great Quantity of 
dry Goods, and about 150 Negroes. We first touched at 
Portobello, but being War-Time, we used to go to the Grout 
within Monkey Key . . . about four or five Miles from 
the Harbour and Town of Portobello . . . We lay at 
this Place Trading for six Weeks in which Time the Spanish 
Merchants at Panama had notice of our being there and 
they came across the Isthmus to trade with us. These 
Merchants frequently travelled in the Habits of Peasants, 
and had their Mules with them, on which they brought 
their Money in Jars, which they filled up with Meal; and if 
any of the King's Officers met them nothing appeared but 
the Meal, and pretended they were poor People going to Por- 
tobello to buy some trifles; but they for the most Part went 
through the Woods ... in order to prevent their being 
discovered by the Royal Officers." 

Almost all the old chronicles give the same story of illicit 
trade. Francois Coreal, whose memoirs are as informal and 
amusing as Captain Uring's are dry and ponderous, in speak- 
ing of the monopoly which the Spanish crown tried to main- 
tain in Peruvian Gold, writes, "mais les Marchands Espagnols 


en font passer beaucoup dans des balles de Marchandise pour 
frauder les Droits." 

Now smuggling, like any violation of the laws, offers rich 
chance for graft to the officials. When Captain Uring's 
sloop with its " great Quantity of dry Goods" lay at anchor 
in Monkey Key it is hard to believe that the Governor of 
Puerto Bello did no know it. If he sent a warship to capture 
it the virtue of having done his duty would be his only 
reward. The confiscated cargo would have gone to the 
Royal Treasury. Undoubtedly the ' ' Merchants at Panama ' ' 
had reasoned with him. Perhaps he himself needed a negro 
slave, or more likely his good wife wanted some of those 
"dry Goods." To drive away the smugglers meant humble 
submission to the monopolist clique in Seville and no reward. 
To ignore their presence meant prosperity for the local mer- 
chants some of which was sure to find its way into the 
governor's pocket. So the trade throve. 

Of course the merchants in Spain were forever protesting 
against this contraband traffic. One Cedula was issued 
after another to stiffen up the enforcement of the laws. It 
was so easy for a Lutheran trader to hide in some of the 
coves around Puerto Bello and land his cargo that it was 
manifestly impossible to maintain the customs regulations 
in that city. But there was only one road over which mer- 
chandise could be taken across the Isthmus. So a sort of 
toll-gate was set up at Venta de Cruces. All traffic between 
the two oceans passed this place. It was a pretty good 
scheme but it did not work. Bancroft, who with his assistant 
writers, did an immense amount of research in regard to the 
fiscal regulations and commercial decline of the Spanish 
colonies, gives a report for the year 1624, which shows that 
goods to the amount of 1,446,346 pesos de oro were registered 
as passing through the Casa at Cruces, while more than seven 
and a half millions worth were smuggled across. 


Early in the seventeenth century the fraudulent traffic was 
more than six times as great as the legitimate trade. By the 
end of the century there was little trade of any kind. 

Very little worth noting happened in the eighteenth century . 
The Isthmus had become of so little importance that in 1718 
it was deprived of its autonomy, and made an administrative 
province of the Vice-Royalty of New Granada. 

The Fates did not seem content to let the muy noble y muy 
leal Ciudad de Panama rot. Three great fires, in 1737, 1756, 
1777, swept the city and almost obliterated it. 

A few people still recalled its glorious past, and dreamed 
of glorious days to come, but Panama itself was so lifeless 
that it could muster no energy to take any active part in 
the Wars of Independence with which the next century began. 



THE Isthmus of Panama played a very small part in the 
revolt of the colonies against Spain. 

It was an all-important station in the communication 
between the mother country and the turbulent colonies of 
the West Coast. The Spanish maintained a strong garrison 
in the fortresses of San Lorenzo on the Caribbean, and 
Panama City on the Pacific. The Isthmus was one of the 
last provinces to throw off allegiance. 

Her fate, however, was bound up with that of her sister 
colonies, and especially with that of the Vice-Royalty of New 
Granada. An historical account of Panama must include 
a consideration of the overthrow of the Spanish Empire on 
the mainland of America. 

A very good condensed account of the Wars of Libera- 
tion is to be found in "The Independence of the South 
American Republics," by Frederic L. Paxson. In describ- 
ing the general conditions which preceded the revolutionary 
period, he writes: 

"Exploitation and repression were the essential features 
of the Spanish colonial system. If Buenos Ayres proved to 
be a competitor to the Spanish merchants, her olive trees 
must come down and vines must come up by the roots, for 
it was clearly understood that Spain was to be protected, 
and that the colonies existed only for the benefit of the 
mother country. It is hard to see how such a system could 
have been carried out honestly, or, if this were possible, 
how it could have been endured. But the administration 



of Spain made the colonial system a means for recuperating 
distressed fortunes, while the colonists utilized the cupidity 
of their rulers to develop an extensive, illicit and profitable 
foreign trade. . . . 

"South America, strange as it may seem, in spite of cen- 
turies of misgovernment and blindness on the part of the 
mother country, was patriotic during those early years of the 
last century, when patriotism was almost the only asset of 
the Spanish peoples. The colonial system had been atro- 
cious, but, keeping those at the bottom of the social scale in 
dense ignorance, and allowing those on top to enrich them- 
selves by illicit means, it had been successful." 

The impetus which set the wave of revolt in motion was 
Napoleon's effort to establish his brother on the throne at 

On March 19, 1808, Charles the Fourth abdicated in 
favor of his son, Ferdinand VII. The old king, however, 
quickly changed his mind, regretted having made way for 
his son, and called on Napoleon to assist him in regaining 
his throne. This was just the sort of a pretext that Bona- 
parte needed to get his finger into the Spanish pie. He 
crossed the Pyrenees, deposed Ferdinand in the name of 
Charles, then threw Charles overboard and put his own 
brother, Joseph, on the throne. 

If ever a great man was bothered by a good-for-nothing 
family, it was the French emperor. By 1813, Joseph had 
thoroughly demonstrated his inability to be a real king, and 
Napoleon quarrelled with him. In December, he wrote to 

"You are no longer King of Spain. What will you do 
now? Will you come to the defence of my throne? . . . 
Have you sense enough to do this? If not, retire to the 
obscurity of some country house near Paris. You will be 
useless, but you will do me no harm." 


Napoleon then put Ferdinand back on the throne. 

At the news of the French aggression, a wave of patriotism 
swept over Spanish-America. Almost without exception, the 
colonies refused to recognize the new sovereignty. Provis- 
ional governments, to represent the deposed king, were 
proclaimed in almost every South American city. They 
formed themselves on the model of, and at first allied them- 
selves with, the legitimist Junta of Seville. 

The first American Junta was established at Quito, in 
August, 1809. It was short lived. Six months later, Cara- 
cas in Venezuela followed suit. Deposing Emparen, the 
governor, who sympathized with the French, they proclaimed 
a federal government in the name of Ferdinand. Bogota, 
the capital of New Granada, formed a Junta in July, 1810. 
In December, they went a step further, and proclaimed a 
republic, to administer the vice-royalty on behalf of the true 
Spanish king. A similar movement, led by Buenos Ayres, 
was growing in the South. 

Not until 1811 did the movement for separation take 
form. On July 5th of that year, the Congress of Venezuela 
passed a resolution of independence. Paxton says: "The 
wide-spread popular feeling which showed itself in this 
movement . . . was founded on loyalty to Spain. 
Many of the leaders of the day were individually in favor of 
complete independence, but there was as yet no public 
opinion to support them." 

The two men who were most rigorously preaching seces- 
sion in the northern provinces were Francesco de Miranda 
and Simon Bolivar. They were both sons of wealthy Vene- 
zuelans, and were both born in Caracas, the former in 1754, 
the latter in 1783. 

I can find no record that Miranda ever visited the Isth- 
mus. But the scene which was enacted in Panama, when the 
Spanish governor, hearing of the defeat of the last royalist 


army, voluntarily and without bloodshed, resigned his au- 
thority to the patriots, was only the last act of the long drama 
which began when Miranda was learning at the Siege of 
Yorktown to dream of American independence. 

In later life, Bolivar said: "The seed of liberty yields its 
just fruit. If there is anything which is never lost, it is the 
blood which is shed for a deserving cause." 

It is interesting to apply this saying to Miranda, whom 
Bolivar believed to be a traitor and sent to his death. The 
historians of to-day who can study those events without 
passion are agreed that Bolivar misjudged Miranda, and that 
his death in a Spanish dungeon is the blackest stain on the 
record of the great Liberator. 

In 1779, Miranda, a youth of 23, came north and enlisted 
in the Continental Army. He served his military appren- 
ticeship under Lafayette, and was present with him at 
Yorktown. He followed his general to Europe and enlisted 
again in the cause of freedom in France. He distinguished 
himself at Valmy and Jemappes, and rose to the rank of 
major-general. His name is engraved on the Arc de Tri- 
umphe. But in 1797, he fell under the displeasure of the 
directoire, as did all who remained true to the early ideals 
of the Revolution, and had to flee to England. For nine 
years he wandered about Europe, trying to enlist sympathy 
for the Spanish colonies among the enemies of the Most 
Catholic King. His eloquence is said to have brought tears 
to the eyes of Catherine of Russia. She promised to help, but 
forgot her promise. In London he won the interest of Pitt 
and another promise of help. But the rising power of 
Napoleon distracted the attention of the English premier. 
At last he came to the United States and sought the friend- 
ship of Jefferson. In a letter to him, dated January 22nd, 
1806, Miranda shows the visionary and poetic side of his 
character. In this petition for military assistance, he quotes 


from the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil. An English officer, 
James Briggs, who later served under him, sums up his char- 
acter in these words: " After all, this man of renown, I fear, 
must be considered as having more learning than wisdom, 
more theoretical knowledge than practical talent. He is 
too sanguine and opinionated to distinguish between vigor 
of enterprise and the hardness of intoleration." Later 
writers have not improved on this contemporaneous char- 

Miranda organized a filibustering expedition in New York, 
and sailed from that port on the Leander, in February, 1806. 
The raid failed dismally. "One thing essential to a revolu- 
tion," Paxton writes, "was lacking the people of Vene- 
zuela would not revolt." 

There was, however, another reason for Miranda's failure, 
which Paxton seems to have ignored. The filibustered did 
not share his ideals. He personally furnished the enthu- 
siasm and money for the venture. Very few of his men 
shared his dream even fewer were Venezuelans who were 
moved by patriotism. Most of his little army were mer- 
cenaries. Many had been tricked or impressed into the 
expedition. A curious little volume published in Albany, 
New York, in 1814, and written by one of these unfortunate 
men, throws much light on this aspect of the enterprise. 
It is entitled, "History of the Adventures and Sufferings of 
Moses Smith during Five Years of his Life, from the Begin- 
ning of the Year 1806, when he was Betrayed into the 
Miranda Expedition." 

It was not until they were many days out from New York 
that some of the men found out the goal of the journey. 
"Many of these men," Smith wrote, "had been forced into 
this expedition against their will. They had not yet shed 
blood nor taken any active part in warfare. The laws of 
their native country were not intentionally violated by 



them, and they had not incurred the vengeance of any 
other. They determined to escape." They were much 
more interested in escaping than conquering. At last sixty 
of them fell into the hands of the Spaniards. The officers, 
ten in number, were executed, the rest rotted for several years 
in the fetid prisons of Puerto Cabello. 

Miranda escaped from this fiasco, and retired to London, 
where he foregathered with the large company of political 
refugees who had found asylum there. 

As we have seen, Napoleon's attempt to turn Spain into 
a family estate had met with resistance in the colonies. In 
1810, the loyalist Junta in Caracas found itself threatened 
by the French and dispatched commissioners to London to 
enlist the aid of Great Britain and to secure arms and 
ammunition for their militia. They chose young Simon 
Bolivar for this mission. The Junta especially warned him 
not to become entangled with Miranda, whose extreme 
republicanism was known to and distrusted by the loyalist 
Junta. But Bolivar had a very decided tendency towards 
disobeying orders. He soon fell under the spell of Miranda's 
eloquence, and, to the chagrin of his employers, brought the 
old republican leader back with him to Venezuela. 

The populace of Caracas gave them both an ardent ova- 
tion when they entered the city. Elections were about to 
take place for delegates to the provincial Congress. Miranda 
was elected from the district of Barcelona. Three political 
parties formed themselves in those days: the Loyalists, the 
Bonapartists and the Republicans. Miranda led the third 
of these parties on the floor of Congress, and Bolivar was the 
most active spirit in the Society of Patriots. The political 
association, in its ideas and influence, was not unlike the 
Jacobin Club of the French Revolution. 

On April 18, 1810, some commissioners arrived on behalf 
of one of the political factions in Spain. Bolivar inaugu- 


rated the separation movement by a speech before the 
Society of Patriots, in which he argued that the inability of 
the Spanish dynasty to maintain a stable government at 
home was warrant and invitation for the Venezuelans to 
govern themselves. 

But the loyalist faction was still the strongest, and they 
forced through a constitution which declared allegiance to 
Ferdinand VII. 

Nearly fifteen months passed before Miranda and Boli- 
var could swing public opinion to their view point. On 
July 5th, 1811, the Congress adopted a resolution, which 
Bolivar had presented the day before to the Society of 
Patriots, which declared the complete independence of 
Venezuela. They adopted a new constitution, forming a 
federated union of the prefectures of the colony, accepted the 
tri-color flag of Miranda, and made him commander-in-chief 
of the army. 

Miranda, although he had proved himself a very capable 
subordinate officer, lacked the essential qualifications of a 
general commandant. 

He had lived so long away from Venezuela that he scarcely 
knew the men under him. He lacked quick decision, and in 
the crisis which came ultimately, completely lost his head. 

About this time a soldier of fortune named Monteverde 
landed in Venezuela. He held Ferdinand's commission as 
field-marshal. And finding no loyalist army to command, 
he set to work to organize one. He made little progress at 
first. The early months of the young republic were peaceful 
and to a surprising degree prosperous. A new and profitable 
trade had began to flow into its ports. It was rapidly 
acquiring stability. 

However, the clergy the world over they have been hos- 
tile to democracy were busily but silently at work in the 
loyalist cause. They had sedulously preached that the 


wrath of God would surely fall on those who despised the 
divine right of kings. On Holy Thursday, March 26th, 
1812, less than a year after the declaration of independence, 
their prophecy seemed to be fulfilled in a terrible earth- 
quake, the worst Venezuela had ever known. The disaster 
was most complete in those districts most strongly repub- 
lican. The patriots seemed to be especially marked out for 
destruction. Six hundred of their soldiers were buried in 
the ruins of the barracks at Caracas, as many more were 
lost in the town of San Felipe, and as many as twelve hun- 
dred were killed at Barquisimento. 

The priests came out in the open and began preaching a 
Holy War against the patriots. Monteverde was just the 
man to make the most of such an opportunity. He took the 
field at once and drove the disorganized republicans out of 
the town of San Carlos, where he established headquarters 
and unfurled the Spanish flag. A second earthquake took 
place on April 4th. It was not so disastrous as the first, 
but it was enough to definitely turn the superstitious against 
the republic. 

Bolivar and other patriot leaders, who lived through the 
days which followed, always maintained that by energetic 
action Miranda might still have saved the republic. But 
he developed a perfect genius for doing the wrong thing. 
Instead of concentrating what was left of his forces, he dis- 
persed them. Monteverde's army existed only in name. 
He could hardly have repulsed a quick attack. Miranda 
ordered Bolivar, with a small force, to go to Puerto Cabello, 
to hold its fortress. Other detachments were sent in other 
directions. Not till May 1st did he march out of Caracas 
with his 1,200 men and take the field against the army 
which Monteverde was rapidly recruiting and rapidly whip- 
ping into shape. 

After a few days' advance, Miranda suddenly changed his 


mind and began a discouraging retreat. Monteverde caught 
up with him at La Victoria and was defeated. But Miranda 
failed to follow up this victory. He continued his retreat- 
ing, losing men by desertion at every step. Bolivar, hear- 
ing that Monteverde was threatening Puerto Cabello, sent 
dispatches to Miranda, asking for reinforcements. Miranda 
felt that he could not spare any. 

On June 30th, the officer of the day in the fortress of 
Puerto Cabello accepted a bribe from the loyalist prisoners. 
He liberated them in the night and they surprised and 
massacred the sleeping garrison. Bolivar with forty men 
escaped into the city. For five days, with his forty men, he 
tried to hold the city against the fortress. But on July 5th, 
loyalist reinforcements from Monteverde arrived, and Bolivar 
and his men escaped by boat to La Guayra. 

On the 29th of July, Miranda, believing that Bolivar had 
betrayed him, and utterly discouraged by the ease with 
which the priests had turned the people away from the 
republic, surrendered to Monteverde without a fight. By 
his treaty he agreed that Venezuela would accept the author- 
ity of the Spanish Cortes, and made terms with Monte- 
verde, worthless as they afterwards proved, that no one 
should be prosecuted because of political opinions. 

The next day Miranda arrived at La Guayra to take ship 
for England. The group of patriots in that city regarded 
him with suspicion. They did not know the terms of his 
treaty with Monteverde, and if they had known, would not 
have trusted them. They clearly foresaw the proscription 
which awaited them. When they asked Miranda the rea- 
sons for his surrender, he maintained a haughty reserve. 
In the crisis the Congress had created him dictator, and no 
one had a right to question his actions. When they pressed 
him for further explanations, he became insulting. Shortly 
after he had retired for the night, fugitives arrived from 


Caracas, with the news that Monteverde had already begun 
executing the patriotic leaders. They were amazed to find 
that Miranda was in the city. He had promised to stay in 
Caracas and act as a mediator with Monteverde. He had 
left that city by stealth. After a heated consultation, 
Bolivar and two other patriots awoke the old man and 
arrested him and threw him into prison as a traitor. 

The next morning the city was occupied by loyalist 
forces. Monteverde, instead of releasing Miranda, as he 
was bound to do under his treaty, sent him in chains to 
Puerto Rico, and from there he was sent to Spain. 

A British officer has left this note on a visit to the prison: 
"I have seen this noble man tied to a wall, with a chain 
about his neck, neither more nor less than a dog." This 
old man, who had fought for liberty on three continents, 
never again was free. He died July 14th, 1816, in the fort- 
ress of La Caraca, Cadiz. 

There is no shadow of evidence that Miranda was in any 
sense of the word a traitor; but, beyond question, in the 
supreme crisis of his life he proved a miserable failure. 
There is small wonder that the group of patriots mistrusted 
him. He had sent his best officer, Bolivar, away from the 
seat of war, had sent him almost single-handed to defend 
Puerto Cabello. After defeating Monteverde, he had con- 
tinued his disastrous retreat. He had surrendered with no 
apparent justification. He refused to explain himself. Such 
action might well seem treasonable under the circumstances. 
They mistook the broken-hearted old man for a traitor. 
If they had shot him after a drum-head court martial, it 
would not have been so bad. But to allow him to fall into 
the clutches of the Spaniards was shameful. 

The First Republic of Venezuela was practically an 
isolated phenomenon. It alone of all the colonies had for- 
mally severed its connections with the mother country. 


However, while civil war had been devastating Venezuela, 
a more subtle and also more permanent force had been at 
work in the other colonies. 

From the moment when the first patriotic juntas had 
been formed, a relaxation had taken place in the rigid old 
colonial laws which forbade commerce with other nations. 
Foreign-made goods, which before had been introduced 
into South America by means of smuggling, now had free 
access. Foreign merchants, especially English, started 
business in the ports. Buenos Ayres on the Atlantic; Val- 
paraiso, Callao, Guayaquil on the west coast; Santa Marta, 
Cartagena, Puerto Cabello and La Guayra on the Carib- 
bean, became enriched by the flourishing new trade. The 
colonists had become habituated to commercial freedom 
and to local taxation during the time that King Ferdinand 
was in exile. 

When he was restored, he in whose name they had 
instituted many liberal reforms turned out to be an ex- 
treme reactionary. He treated his partisans in America 
like traitors. He tried to re-establish all the old restric- 
tions on colonial commerce. The home land had been 
devastated by the long war over the Succession; he had 
no place to turn for taxes, except the colonies. In the 
olden days the Americas had laid many a golden egg for the 
Spanish throne. His one idea was to start the process 
again. But the people of South America did not submit 
willingly to re-enslavement. 

Secession was no longer the crack-brained dream of a 
handful of Venezuelan enthusiasts, it had become "good 
business." The foreign merchants who had established 
themselves in the colonies, seeing themselves threatened 
with exclusion and ruin, became a very active force in the 
second phase of the revolutionary movement. Paxton 
rather cynically remarks: "Commercial pressure was the 


great influence in keeping the patriots patriotic." This is 
perhaps an over-statement. But the foreign merchants 
certainly were a great influence. Without their ready 
financial assistance San Martin in the south, and Bolivar 
in the north, could not have armed the patriots. 

The downfall of Miranda marked the end of the idealistic 
movement. In a few months a new movement sprang up 
which was largely materialistic and entirely successful. 



WHEN the disastrous campaign of 1812 gave Venezuela 
back to Spain, Bolivar fled to New Granada, and so more 
directly enters the history of the Isthmus. 

His early life had been unhappy. His father a rich and 
influential colonist had died when he was an infant, his 
mother when he was fifteen. He went to Spain with a tutor, 
at nineteen had married a girl of sixteen. He had hardly 
brought her home to Caracas when she died of yellow fever. 
In 1805 he returned again to Europe. He saw Napoleon 
playing skittles with crowns. And it is said that during this 
trip he made an especial pilgrimage to Rome, and there on 
the Sacred Hill made a vow to devote his life to the inde- 
pendence of his people. He returned to Venezuela by way of 
the United States, and by 1810 had risen to sufficient prom- 
inence to be chosen by the Junta for the mission to London. 

While under the influence of Miranda, he seems to have 
accepted all the ideals of this enthusiast. His speeches at 
the Society of Patriots are filled with the spirit of the Red 
Republicans of Paris. At this period his idol seems to have 
been Thomas Jefferson. But in later life he developed in the 
opposite direction, becoming as ardent an advocate of 
aristocracy as Alexander Hamilton. 

When he reached New Granada, after the fall of the First 
Republic in Venezuela, he found this vice-royalty, of which 
the Isthmus was a province, in a wild ferment. A Junta 



was claiming to govern it in the name of Ferdinand. But the 
federalist tendency had gone to such extremes that each 
province considered itself a " sovereign state," and a condition 
of chaos had resulted. A few troops hostile to the Junta 
occupied the lower valley of the Magdalena. Bolivar en- 
listed as a private in the patriot army, and soon rose to a 
small command. He began to manifest a brilliant genius 
for guerilla warfare and also his marked habit of disregarding 
orders. His commander-in-chief was a strategist of the old 
school, the kind of general that Napoleon had so easily 
overthrown in Europe. Bolivar was continually making 
raids on his own initiative, which were so successful that the 
Junta, in spite of his commander's frequent demands that 
he should be court-martialed for insubordination, always 
sustained him. In a few months he had cleared the district 
of the enemy and had collected a little army of six hundred 
men who were devoted to him and as dare-devil a crew as 
ever took part in partizan warfare. 

Meanwhile things had been going badly for the patriots in 
Venezuela. General Monteverde had entirely repudiated 
the amnesty he had pledged to Miranda. The execution of 
suspects was a daily occurrence. It is doubtful if such a 
long continued and devastating reign of terror has ever 
existed even in Russia. The nucleus of Monteverde's army 
were old soldiers of the Napoleonic wars, mercenaries, hard- 
ened by their profession of bloodshed, feeling themselves 
alien from the conquered people. They played a role in 
Venezuela similar to that of the Cossacks in present-day 
Russia. The brutality and rapine of the allied armies at 
the relief of the legations in Pekin did not exceed the cruelties 
of these men. 

Bolivar decided on the invasion of Venezuela. Castillo, 
his commanding officer, was horrified at the suggestion of so 
wild an adventure. Bolivar went over his head and appealed 


to the Junta. It is doubtful if he waited for their authoriza- 
tion. One thing is sure, the civil commissioners who were 
appointed to accompany him never caught up with him. 
With almost incredible speed, he had thrown his little com- 
pany of six hundred across one of the low, northern passes 
of the Andes and was in the midst of Venezuela, before 
Monteverde knew he had started. Revolt broke out every- 
where. Monteverde was able to capture a small force 
almost three hundred men who were marching to join the 
liberating army. Although prisoners of war, he massacred 
them all. Bolivar replied by the famous proclamation of 
"War to the death." 

It is inexplicable how the human mind works, how it 
decides what acts to condemn and hold in abhorrence. For 
instance, history teaches us that the French Revolutionists 
of 1871 were monsters. During the three months of the 
Commune they executed about thirty-five royalists. The 
victorious army of Thiers massacred almost as many thou- 
sands of the Communards. Why we should condemn the 
former act and not the latter is indeed inexplicable. Within 
our more recent memory, some fanatical Moors at Casa 
Blanca, stirred to fury by the actions of the Europeans in 
tearing up a graveyard to make way for a railroad, murdered 
a half a dozen of them. A week or so later, the French fleet 
bombarded Casa Blanca in the night, killing hundreds of 
sleeping women and children. The act of the Moors is con- 
sidered an outrage; that of the Christians legitimate. 

Almost every biographer of Bolivar condemns him severely 
for this proclamation of "War to the death." It was simply 
a declaration that as the enemy refused to carry on war in 
the manner called civilized, the patriots would do the same. 
If the Devil persisted in using fire, so would the revolution- 
ists. As soon as Bolivar came into contact with Spanish 
generals who were less devilish than Monteverde, he revoked 


this decree and carried on his later campaigns in accordance 
with the ordinary military conventions. 

On the 14th of August, 1814, after a series of brilliant 
actions, he entered Caracas in triumph. The civil commis- 
sioners arrived from New Granada, and they ordered him to 
call elections for a Venezuelan Congress to vote on a union 
with New Granada. On the ground of military necessity, he 
did not obey the letter of their instruction. He assembled 
what he called a " council of notables." They appointed 
him Dictator of Venezuela until the union of the two coun- 
tries could be effected. 

On the 3d of December he met Monteverde in a pitched 
battle at Araure and defeated him. A new and much more 
able general, Boves, now assumed command of the Spanish 
forces. And with the spring of 1814 commenced a successful 
campaign which ended in the complete defeat of Bolivar 
at La Puerta. Once more he was compelled to flee. He 
returned to New Granada. In spite of the disastrous ending 
of his brilliant Venezuelan campaign, the Junta gave him 
command of an army and dispatched him to reduce the city 
of Santa Fe de Bogota, which had revolted from the federa- 
tion. He performed this mission with a rare mixture of force 
and diplomacy, and the Junta recognized his services by 
making him captain-general of New Granada. As he was a 
Venezuelan, this stirred up the jealousy of native officers, 
and Bolivar became involved in a disheartening mess of 
cheap political intrigue. At last he threw up his commission 
in disgust and retired to the English island of Jamaica. Here 
the first of a long series of unsuccessful attempts to assas- 
sinate him was made by the secret agents of Spain. 

Meanwhile Ferdinand was reseated on the throne at 
Madrid. The colonies had refused to submit to the old 
embargo laws on their commerce. A punitive expedition 
was sent out under the command of Morillo, a general of 


much experience and great prestige. In July, 1815, he arrived 
off Cartagena with two ships -of -the -line, six frigates, 
seventy transports and 12,000 veteran troops. For six 
months the patriots held out in the fortress of Cartagena, 
but were at last reduced by starvation. By June, 1816, 
Morillo had fought his way up to Bogota and sent a letter 
to Ferdinand in which he boasted that he had not "left alive, 
in the Kingdom of New Granada, a single individual of 
sufficient influence or talents to conduct the revolution." 

This was the darkest period for the cause of independence 
in the northern provinces. Morillo was supreme in New 
Granada. Boves had suppressed almost all resistance in 
Venezuela. Only a few bands of "Llaneros," as the Spanish 
call their cowboys, kept up a desultory guerilla combat, 
under Marino and Paez, in the interior. But the patriots 
had no regular army in the field. 

Bolivar, however, did not know that there was such a 
word as discouragement. At the time when the great earth- 
quake had overthrown the First Venezuelan Republic, he 
had exclaimed: "If Nature opposes us, we will wrestle with 
her and compel her to obey!" And now, when for a second 
time the cause of independence seemed to others hopelessly 
lost, Bolivar was at work with undimmed faith. He had 
gone to Hayti and had made friends with that noble old 
negro, Alexandre Pelion, the president of the Republic. 
He helped the Venezuelan revolutionist to outfit a filibuster. 
"When your expedition shall land," he said to Bolivar, "free 
the slaves. For how can you found a republic where slavery 
exists?" Bolivar at once freed all his own slaves; it was his 
continued advocacy of abolition which as much as anything 
else kept the United States from assisting the Spanish col- 
onies in their revolt. 

With six ships and a handful of exiles, he made an unsuc- 
cessful raid on the island of Margarita in May, 1816. In 


December of the same year he made another effort and this 
time with success. Using the island as a base, he descended 
on the mainland and captured the port of Barcelona, two 
hundred miles east of La Guayra. Here, for the third time, 
he proclaimed the republic. He was never again to be driven 
from Venezuela by the Spaniards. The tide had turned. 
Although he had yet to meet many reverses, the flag of 
independence has not since been hauled down in Venezuela. 

Bolivar moved inland to help Marino's guerillas near 
Santo Tomas de Angostura. Morillo, the Spanish general, 
had hurried to Venezuela at the first news of Bolivar's opera- 
tions. By a brilliant dash a Spanish force under General 
Aldama captured Barcelona behind the Liberator's back. 
Here Aldama massacred the seven hundred soldiers of the 
garrison, three hundred non-combatants, including women 
and children, and the fifty invalids he found in the hospital. 

Bolivar moved his capital to Angostura, and was rapidly 
consolidating his government. He sent out summons for a 
national congress. During this year occurred an incident 
around which much hostile criticism of Bolivar centered 
the execution for treason of General Manuel Carlos Piar. 

The enemies of Bolivar claim that he caused Piar's execu- 
tion in order to rid himself of a dangerous rival in the affec- 
tions of the army. However, there seems to be good evi- 
dence that while an officer of Miranda's army, Piar had been 
guilty of an attempt to sell himself to Monteverde at least, 
finding himself under such suspicion, he deserted. In 1816 
he had met Bolivar in Hayti and had won forgiveness. Boli- 
var made him a major-general in the invading army. He 
distinguished himself as an officer, winning a brilliant victory 
at San Felix in April, 1817. Evidence of a second conspiracy 
sufficient to satisfy the court-martial was brought against 
him and he was shot at Angostura, October 16, 1817. The 
justice of court-martial is notoriously uncertain. And Bolivar, 


as he had shown in his conduct towards Miranda, was of a 
suspicious nature. But it seems foreign to his character 
to have used his great personal power to make way with an 
able lieutenant because of petty jealousy. 

The year 1818 passed in indecisive campaigns. There was 
continual skirmishing, but no decisive engagements. 

The second congress of Venezuela assembled in February, 
1819, at Angostura. Bolivar resigned from the dictatorship 
and was promptly re-elected. During the preceding year 
he had recruited a foreign legion, formed principally from 
Irish and English veterans of the continental wars. His 
native troops were mostly cavalry. The foreign legion gave 
him his necessary infantry. 

As soon as congress had assembled, Bolivar took the field 
again. He recaptured Barcelona, which, in giving him a 
seaport for the free importation of ammunition and supplies, 
greatly strengthened his position. Morillo, however, had 
12,000 trained soldiers, and was too strong to be met in an 
open battle. Morillo was a wily old general. He saw in 
Bolivar the soul of the revolt, and he was concentrating 
every effort to annihilate him and end the revolution. He 
believed that New Granada had been thoroughly cowed, and 
he practically denuded that province of troops in his desire 
to overwhelm Bolivar with numbers. 

Bolivar was not the kind of a spirit to accept the apparent 
necessity of a Fabian campaign. The very odds which 
Morillo was gathering against him gave him the hint which 
developed into the most brilliant proof of his military genius. 
Leaving Paez in command of the native cavalry, with instruc- 
tions to continually harass Morillo, but avoid a battle, he 
assembled the pick of his army, five hundred of the foreign 
legion and two thousand Venezuelans, and dashed up the 
valley of the Cosnare towards the high Andes and New 


As ordinarily happened, Bolivar made this move without 
asking any one's consent. As soon as he disappeared in the 
depths of the Cordilleras Morillo, when he heard of it, called 
it a " military delirium " the Venezuelan patriots denounced 
him as a traitor and made General Marino dictator in his 
place. But Bolivar had lost communication with Angostura 
and knew nothing of this. He inspired his men to persist 
in their advance in the midst of incredible hardships. The 
marches of Hannibal and Napoleon across the Alps were 
child's play to this raid. Almost all of their horses and 
many of the men perished in the Arctic climate of the high 
mountains. Although the distance was less than a hun- 
dred miles it took the army of liberators almost a month 
to get across. 

General Barreiro, the Spanish commandant of New Gra- 
nada, could only muster three thousand men to meet the 
invaders. The natives gave what assistance they could in 
the way of provisions to the famished army, and Bolivar 
was able to remount most of his cavalry before he met the 
Spaniards. By making a flank movement instead of accept- 
ing immediate battle, Bolivar, after a brisk skirmish, on the 
22d of July occupied the town of Tunja. This put him 
between Barreiro and his base of supplies at Bogota. The 
Spaniards were compelled to attack, and on August 7th were 
utterly defeated at Boyaca. Barreiro, nearly all his officers 
and over half his men were captured. This battle put a 
definite end to Spanish rule in all of New Granada except the 
Isthmus of Panama. The next day Bolivar entered Bogota. 

He returned at once to Venezuela to report his victory 
to the congress in session at Angostura. They promptly 
forgave him for having deserted them to conquer New Gra- 
nada, and re-elected him dictator. He had brought with him 
a formal request for the union of the two countries. 

Then followed many months of bitter debate over the form 


of constitution. Bolivar had become separated in thought 
from his old associates of the Society of Patriots. He was 
no longer the extreme democrat he had been as a youth, 
when under the influence of Miranda. His experience with 
the political turmoil of New Granada the rivalry of petty 
" sovereign states" had sickened him with the federal form 
of government. As a man of action, he had become disgusted 
with the intriguing of raw, inexperienced democracy. But 
he also was a dreamer, and his dream, which extended far 
beyond the frontiers of his native land, even farther separated 
him from his old friends. He felt that nothing was accom- 
plished so long as the Spanish flag remained anywhere on 
the American continent. While their lawyers were becoming 
eloquent over the rights of constituent states of Venezuela 
and New Granada, and maintaining that perfect liberty 
could only exist in a loose federation, Bolivar realized that 
the war of independence was by no means over, that he had 
more to fear from political intrigues in his own capital than 
from Spanish generals, that for the great purpose of freeing 
the continent his dream also included Cuba and the Phil- 
ippines a strong centralized government, essentially mili- 
tary, was more needful than the granting of franchises to 
illiterate peons. All these considerations forced him to advo- 
cate a policy which the true democrats, the disciples of 
Rousseau and Jefferson, denounced as reactionary. And 
certainly a like verdict would fall on any one who advocated 
the same measures in a settled democracy to-day. 

However, there was nothing underhand in Bolivar's 
opposition to thorough-going democracy. He spoke of liberty 
as an island against which beat alternate waves of tyranny 
and chaos. These excerpts from his speeches before the 
Angostura Congress plainly show the trend of his thought: 

"It is more difficult to maintain the equilibrium of liberty 
than to sustain the weight of tyranny." 


"The people more frequently than the government bring 
in tyranny." 

" Pisistratus, an usurper and a despot, did more good to 
Athens than her laws. . . . The republic of Thebes ex- 
isted only during the lives of Pelopidas and Epaminondos, 
for it is men, not principles, which fo r m governments." 

"Angels alone, and not men, can exist free, peaceable 
and happy in the exercise of sovereign power." 

He had indeed swung round entirely from his former posi- 
tion; he quoted no more from Jefferson; he had become an 
advocate of the doctrines of Hamilton. 

He asked for a hereditary legislature of very limited 
power. It was to be chosen by limited suffrage and do little 
but elect a president with dictatorial powers. All the other 
officers of the state were to be chosen by this chief executive. 
As there was no possibility of any one else being chosen as 
president ; he was practically asking for supreme power. 

The example of Napoleon was too fresh in the minds of 
men to allow the patriots to hand themselves over thus bound 
to any individual. They were in the embarrassing position 
of wanting a man on horseback who would not trample on 
them. The result was a compromise. Bolivar's ideas on 
centralization were adopted, but the advanced democrats 
won on the other points at issue. This constitution was 
adopted on the 17th of December, 1819, and Bolivar was 
elected president of the new Republic of Colombia. 

There was a desultory campaign in 1820. And in the 
spring of the next year, Bolivar took the field with a splendid 
army of 15,000. His foreign legion had grown to two thou- 
sand. General Morillo had returned to Spain, and had been 
superseded by General Torre. The decisive battle came 
on June 24th, at Carabobo, where the Venezuelan cavalry, 
under Paez, completely overthrew the last Spanish army. 
Torre retreated to Puerto Cabello. This fortress and that 


of Panama, which dominated the Isthmus, were all that re- 
mained of the Spanish Empire in northern South America. 
Within a few months the people of Panama proclaimed 
their independence and entered the Colombian Union. 
Puerto Cabello held out until 1823. 

Bolivar, at the height of his popularity, was by no means 
ready to lay down his arms. In the spring of 1822 he 
marched out of Bogota with his army of veterans to liberate 
Ecuador. On the 7th of March he defeated a strong Spanish 
force at Bompono. His advance was checked by a stubborn 
resistance and almost impassable mountain barriers. But 
on the 24th of May his able general, Sucre, who had landed 
with another army at Quayaquil, overthrew Spanish author- 
ity in Ecuador by a brilliant victory at Pinchincha. This 
opened the road to Bolivar, and he entered Quito on the 
16th of June, the same day that John Quincy Adams recog- 
nized the independence of Colombia by officially receiving 
her charge" d'affaires at the White House. The newly-freed 
state joined the Republic of Colombia. 

While this long war had been going on in the north, a 
similar struggle had been waged in the south. And as Bolivar 
had risen to pre-eminence in the Colombian army, so a 
general named Jose de San Martin had won the title of 
Liberator of the South. Starting out from Argentina, he 
had freed Chili and the largest part of Peru. 

In many ways his career had been similar to Bolivar's. 
He had led an army across a pass of the Andes, which was 
supposed to be impossible. More than once he had snatched 
victory from defeat by an act of rank insubordination. But 
in character he was the opposite of Bolivar. Extremely 
modest and retiring, he stuck much more closely to his pro- 
fession of arms. He seems to have had no personal ambition, 
and to have held politics in abhorrence. 

On the 22d of July, 1822, San Martin came up from 


Callao to meet Bolivar at Guayaquil. What happened in 
their long private interview no one knows. After it, San 
Martin returned to Callao and resigned from the dictator- 
ship. The Peruvians offered him 10,000 ounces of gold for 
his services. He accepted only three thousand dollars, and 
sailed with his daughter to England, where he lived and died 
in obscurity. 

The enemies of Bolivar claim that San Martin proposed 
a joint campaign against the remaining Spanish forces in 
Peru, even offered to accept a subordinate position, but that 
Bolivar, ambitious to monopolize all the glory of the libera- 
tion, would not accept his co-operation under any terms. 
But the frequency with which he allowed his own generals, 
Paez and Sucre, to win fame by commanding in decisive 
battles seems to militate against this explanation. I have 
not been able to find any account of this meeting from the 
pens of any of Bolivar's friends. 

Bolivar waited impatiently in Ecuador for the Peruvians 
to invite his assistance in finishing the work which San Martin 
had left. But his enemies had so industriously spread stories 
of his Napoleonic ambitions that the Peruvians were afraid 
of him and decided to finish off the remaining Spaniards 
themselves. But one after the other, their two armies 
were defeated by General Conterac, who was the most able 
soldier that Spain had sent out to the colonies. When 
Conterac recaptured Lima, the capital, the patriots buried 
their distrust of Bolivar and sent him an urgent appeal. 
Sucre took the first section of the Colombian army to Peru. 
Bolivar arrived the first of September with the main guard. 
All that was left of the Peruvian congress assembled and 
pronounced him protector and dictator. On August 7, 1824, 
with a picked army composed of his own and San Martin's 
veterans, he defeated the Spaniards at Junin. Bolivar re- 
turned to Lima to straighten out his political affairs, leaving 


Sucre in command to deliver the coup-de-grace. On Decem- 
ber 9th the final battle took place at Ayacucho. Sucre's 
veterans completely overthrew the Spaniards and ended 
the war in Peru. 

Sucre followed up his victory by leading his army into 
the province of Upper Peru (now Bolivia), the last strong- 
hold of the royalists. The fighting had been severe there 
for many years, and the population rose as a man to greet 
the delivering army. The province was liberated without a 
battle, and the great war of independence was over. The 
newly-freed province named itself Bolivia, in honor of the 
liberator, and practically offered him the crown. This was 
only one of many times when Bolivar, if he had been at 
heart the monarchist his enemies maintained, could have 
acquired a throne. 

Instead, he drew up the "Codigo Boliviano." It was, I 
suppose, as good a constitution as one could expect from a 
soldier. It was not, however, anything like so workable 
a document as the "Code Napoleon." Bolivar gave free 
expression to the anti-democratic tendency he had so 
clearly enunciated years before at . the Congress of An- 

The constitution, written in his own hand, and which he 
repeatedly announced as his profession of political faith, 
provided for a life president who could nominate his successor. 
The principal novelty was that each group of ten citizens 
should elect one of their number as a general elector. The 
other nine were then to retire to the shade of their fig-tree 
and forget all about politics for four years until time to 
choose a new elector. It was an immensely complex instru- 
ment. The Bolivians swallowed it without amending a word. 
And Sucre was chosen president for life. 

Bolivar returned to Peru to force his pet constitution 
on that country, and in a decidedly high-handed manner 


succeeded. The news reached him that a secession move- 
ment, inspired by the old distaste to a centralized govern- 
ment, had broken out in Venezuela, under his old companion 
in arms, Paez. 

How far Bolivar had become personally ambitious, how 
often he allowed himself to dream of an imperial crown, no 
one will ever know. It is beyond dispute that with clear- 
sighted vision he foresaw the political chaos, the revolutions 
and counter revolutions, which were to disturb the great 
continent to whose freedom he had dedicated his life. That 
he dreamed of welding all the old colonies into a stable 
united nation is proven by almost all his speeches and letters. 
However, it was a hopeless dream. The chief grievance of 
the Spanish colonies had for a couple of centuries been the 
lack of home rule. All their ills had come from a distant 
administration. The one thing on which the Latin Americans 
were united was a passionate desire for autonomy. An em- 
pire cannot be built on such a motive. Under the enthusiasm 
of the war of independence Bolivar had been able to hush 
the universal demand for home rule. Now that the last 
battle had been fought, the old issue came to life with 
redoubled vigor. 

On the 22d of June, 1826, just twenty years after Miranda's 
disastrous filibuster on the Leander, Bolivar's Pan-American 
Congress assembled at Panama. Mexico, Central America 
and the South American states, dominated by Bolivar, sent 
delegates. Chile and Argentina, fearing that the Congress 
was to be a pretext for him to spring his imperial con- 
spiracy, did ( not co-operate. Among other resolutions, the 
Congress adopted the following, dictated by Bolivar: 

"The Republics of Colombia, Central America, Peru, and 
the Mexican States, do mutually ally and confederate them- 
selves in peace and war in a perpetual compact, the object 
of which shall be to maintain the sovereignty and indepen- 


dence of the confederated powers against foreign subjection 
and to secure the enjoyment of unalterable peace." 

Nothing was accomplished at this congress beyond the 
proclaiming of this ideal of Latin- American unity. All the 
contracting parties promptly fell into civil war. But the 
ideal gains ground year by year. The five republics of 
Central America now have an arbitration treaty; Chile and 
Argentina also. Our Bureau of American Republics and the 
frequent Pan-American congresses are knitting these neigh- 
bors of ours into closer unity every day. In some not too 
distant day the ideal of the Great Liberator will be realized. 

Bolivar returned to Bogota and tried to bring order out 
of the chaos of the Colombian republic. The congress refused 
to accept his Codigo Boliviano. Peru threw off her allegiance 
to him. And some of his old veterans ardent republicans 
whom he had left in Peru, believing in the stories of his 
treason, started north to protect their country against his 
ambitions. The secessionist movement in Venezuela was 
continually growing. His own people began to plot his 
assassination. At last in January, 1830, he again tendered 
his resignation. The congress refused to accept it. The 
revolted province of Venezuela voted him a pension on con- 
dition that he would never set foot in the country again. 
This seems to have broken his heart. Although not old in 
years, the two decades of continual campaigning had worn 
him out. In April he resigned definitely, determined to 
retire to private life abroad. 

Seven miles before reaching the port of Santa Marta, 
where a ship was waiting for him, he heard that Bolivia had 
risen in revolution; they had repudiated his Codigo Boliviano, 
and his dearest friend, Sucre, had been assassinated. He 
broke down completely, and died on the 17th of December, 
in the little village of San Pedro. 



THE man who discovered gold in California indirectly 
affected the Isthmus more profoundly than any person since 
Columbus, who discovered it. 

The misguided colonial policy of Spain had killed the 
trade of her American possessions. Commerce had not re- 
vived during the thirty years of independence. It is hard 
for us to-day to realize how far off the west coast of Amer- 
ica was in the fifties. The Chinese ports were in more fre- 
quent communication with Europe and New York, than 
were Valparaiso and San Francisco. What little trade there 
was went around the Horn or the Cape of Good Hope. 
There was no regular transit across the Isthmus. Many a 
person lived and died in Panama without ever having seen 
the Atlantic, less than fifty miles away. A few muleteers 
kept up an intermittent transportation of merchandise and 
mail along the old road, which had once been the route of 
half the wealth of the world. 

The discovery of California gold and the rush of '49 woke 
the Isthmus from its long sleep. The trail across the Great 
Desert by " prairie schooners" was long and expensive and 
dangerous. New routes were established across Nicaragua 
and Panama. The latter proved the more popular. 

The number of people who used this route is almost 
incredible. They came by boat from New York to Chagres, 
a small town at the mouth of the famous river, went up- 
stream in native boats to Gorgona or Cruces, and then by 



mule over the old Spanish road to Panama. Sometimes in 
the dry season as many as three or four thousand would 
cross, going or coming, in a week! Of course there were no 
accommodations for such a horde of immigrants. The hard- 
ships suffered were appalling. 

In 1851 a little book was published by Dr. E. L. Auten- 
rieth of Panama, called, "A Topographical Map of the 
Isthmus of Panama . . . with a few Accompanying 
Remarks for the use of Travellers." 

"Chagres is," he writes, "an unhealthy place; but it 
cannot be denied, that a great deal of the sickness prevail- 
ing here must be ascribed to the terribly bad food every- 
one is compelled to eat. . . . 

"Crossing the Isthmus in the dry season is certainly a 
pleasant trip, if reasonable precautions are taken, and pro- 
visions for a few days are carried along; but any journey 
during the rainy season, from May until December, will 
certainly be full of hardship and danger so long as this com- 
plete want of conveniences and provisions shall exist. We 
hope the railroad company will succeed in their endeavour 
to reach Gorgona before the next rainy season, and if, 
moreover, as is contemplated, a good mule road is opened 
from Gorgona to the Cruces road, the crossing will be a deal 
easier, and an express might reach Panama" in twelve hours 
after leaving Navy Bay. The distance from Chagres to 
Panama", in a straight line, is not fully thirty-eight miles, 
and yet I met a great many who were compelled to spend 
seven or eight days in crossing, being exposed to the heaviest 
rains, unable to obtain food or a comfortable place to lie 
down at night, or a spot where to dry their wet clothes. 

"All who intend to cross the Isthmus, ought to provide 
themselves with some provisions, such as good hams, smoked 
tongues or sausages, pickles, good coffee, and their accus- 
tomed drinks; a good blanket; if in the rainy season, a light 


india-rubber overcoat and leggings; also an umbrella. These 
should never be omitted. . . . 

"If you have Indians for boatmen, I would advise you not 
to be too friendly, but at the same time to be careful not to 
insult them or act in an overbearing manner. 

"I was told by boatmen of mine, that boats had fre- 
quently been upset, and passengers' lives endangered, in 
consequence of their overbearing and inhuman treatment of 
the Indians. Negroes and Griffs are in far worse repute 
then the full-blood Indians; they are regarded as lazier, 
more malicious, and dishonest; therefore deal with Indians 
in preference. . . . 

"The Cruces road is shorter than the one at Gorgona by 
about two miles, but far worse to pass over. From Cruces 
to Cruz de Cardenas, the place where the two paths meet, 
is certainly the worst and most fatiguing road we ever 
travelled. There are no high mountains with abysses, which 
would present great obstacles to making a good road, if 
hands could be obtained to do the work. It seems that long 
before the Spaniards came to the country the rain had 
washed off, at certain places, the ground from the rock 
below, and particularly at such spots where, by the forma- 
tion of the rock, a fissure was left. These places presented 
a solid foundation for the feet of oxen and horses during the 
rainy season, and were therefore selected for crossing, and 
by connecting the different gullies with each other, the so- 
called Cruces road was established. 

"In consequence of the continued passing of mules, these 
gullies have deepened in some places to a depth of about 
thirty feet, narrowing towards the bottom, which at some 
places is not over two feet wide. That through such defiles 
only one mule after the other can pass, is easily understood; 
and if two parties meet, one is compelled to turn back. 
When this happens it is not always accomplished without 


difficulties. To avoid collisions, the arrieros (mule-drivers) 
will give, before entering, whoops, which are immediately 
answered by the party inside. It is stated that F. Pizarro, 
the conqueror of Peru, ordered the paving of this road, 
which was done with large round stones, sometimes a foot 
and a half in diameter. Since Panamd sunk into insignifi- 
cance this pavement has been entirely neglected, and is now 
completely broken; and the big stones are lying loose and 
in great disorder, where formerly there was a pavement. 

"This is the principal cause of the abominable state of 
the road at this time. It is astonishing that the mules are 
capable of passing at all over these loose heaps of round 
stones, with a load on their backs. 

"At the places where no pavement was needed the rock is 
often excavated by the shoes of the mules in such a manner 
that a series of holes, sometimes more than a foot deep, 
have been produced, leaving a ridge of the rock between 
each hole; these are the most dangerous places for passing; 
the mule has to proceed with great caution, or he will fall. 
Fortunately such spots do not occur very frequently." 

As fast as sections of the Panama railroad were opened 
it was used by the prospectors. But until its completion in 
1855 part of the old route was used. One of the most inter- 
esting accounts of those days is found in a report of the 
surgeon attached to the Fourth United States Infantry. 
They crossed, en route for garrison duty in California, 
during the rainy season of 1852. The Captain Grant re- 
ferred to in the report was later to become famous at Appo- 
mattox Court House and to enter the White House. 


September 14, 1852. 

SIR: The occurrence of malignant cholera in the Fourth regiment of 
infantry, which I accompanied from New York to California, seemed 
to me to require that I should make a special report to you upon the 




subject. I have, therefore, made a report of the sick of that regiment 
up to the 31st August, and beg leave to accompany it with the following 
remarks : 

The regiment was concentrated at Fort Columbus, New York, in 
obedience to orders from the War Department, the last company 
having arrived on the 23d June. On that day 243 recruits were received 
and examined. On the evening of the 2d July, a telegraphic order 
was received for the troops to embark on the 5th. On the evening of 
the 3d July, about 150 more recruits were received and examined. 
On the 5th July eight companies of the regiment, with the band and 
headquarters, were embarked on the United States mail steamer Ohio, 
bound for Aspinwall, New Granada. We had a good deal of diarrhoea 
among our men during their stay at Governor's Island, but it was quite 
manageable, and when we embarked I did not consider it necessary to 
leave but one man in the hospital; he was recovering from a broken 
leg, and would not have been able to march across the Isthmus. The 
Ohio was a large ship, as to tonnage, and in that respect, capable of 
carrying our whole command; but her room is so badly distributed 
that we should have been crowded had there been no other passengers. 
Our command, including women and children, was about 800. We 
had, however, all told, passengers, crow, etc., 1,100 on board. This 
was altogether too many people for her accommodations at that season 
of the year, and in a voyage to the tropics. We, however, reached 
Aspinwall on the 16th July, without losing a man. We had a number 
of cases of both diarrhoea and constipation, and a few cases of fever 
on the voyage. Our sick report, nevertheless, was very small upon 
landing. One man (the bandmaster), sick with chronic diarrhoea, had 
sunk so much on the voyage I was obliged to leave him on the ship, 
where he died two days afterwards. 

On the voyage I had endeavored to impress upon the commanding 
officer the necessity of preventing the men from eating the fruits of the 
country, and from indulging in any of the liquors they would meet 
with on the march. A very judicious order, embracing these views, 
was issued previous to our debarkation. I am sorry to say, however, 
it was not observed on the march. Had it been strictly obeyed, I think 
we should have been spared much suffering. It being the height of the 
rainy season when we reached the Isthmus we were much embarrassed 
by the state of the roads; by rains every day; by the extreme heat 
and by the epidemic influences prevailing. 

Cholera existed at Aspinwall when we landed. It had been very 
fatal a short time previously among the laborers on the railroad, in 


consequence of which they had very generally abandoned the work. 
Forty laborers out of one hundred, I was told, had died at one station. 
It was existing at both Graces and Gorgona on the route points we 
were obliged to pass and at both of which we were unfortunately 
detained. We found it also at Panama upon our arrival there. 

Notwithstanding all this, and the cautions in the order of march, 
the men had no sooner been permitted to land to procure water, than 
numbers of them sought the first tavern they could find, to indulge 
their fatal craving for liquor. Many were brought back on board that 
night intoxicated and drenched with rain. Fruits were also eaten 
with avidity whenever they could be procured. 

As we did not reach Aspinwall until after the departure of the daily 
train of cars we were obliged to remain there until next morning. 
Our baggage, however, was principally landed, and stowed in the cars 
that afternoon, and this operation was completed early the next morning. 
When the hour arrived for starting, it was found that the locomotives 
were too light to carry more than half our men in one train. They 
were accordingly despatched in two trains at intervals of an hour, 
and then the baggage had to be left to be brought by a return engine. 
Arrived at Barbacoas, the present terminus of the railway, Colonel 
Bonneville informed me that it was determined to march the main 
body of the men from Gorgona to Panama; that the sick, the women, 
the baggage, and one company would proceed to Cruces, where the 
mule transportation would be provided, and whence they would also 
proceed to Panama. I was ordered to accompany this last detachment. 
Colonel Bonneville then proceeded at once in boats to Gorgona. Colonel 
Wright was to follow when the baggage came up. The baggage did 
not arrive till after dark; too late to transfer it to the boats. 

In the morning it was discovered that the hospital stores were not 
contained in those cars. I had a special messenger sent back to bring 
them up immediately. Colonel Wright went on with the battalion, 
leaving me, a subaltern, and a small guard, with the sick. My mes- 
senger did not return till late in the afternoon, and then brought up 
but four packages out of thirty, declaring there were no more to be 
found. This made it necessary for me to return to Aspinwall, which 
I did that night upon a hand car. I found my stores in the first baggage 
car I met with in the depot, and the next morning carried them to Bar- 
bacaos in a special train furnished me by Colonel Totten, the engineer 
of the road. I proceeded at once up the river to Cruces, a distance of 
twelve miles, against a rapid and dangerous current, in a small boat 
propelled by setting-poles only; and by dint of great exertion and deter- 


mination succeeded in reaching that point at about 9^ at night. My 
hospital boat did not get up until next morning. At Cruces, very much 
to my surprise, I found the regimental quartermaster, about seventy 
men, and all the women and children. This was Monday night. He 
had been there since Sunday morning, and no transportation for the 
baggage had yet been furnished by the contractors. The detachment 
was encamped on the river at the landing-place, and all the baggage 
piled up in the vicinity. At this time all were well, and my sick had en- 
tirely recovered. Transportation was promised in the morning, and I 
determined to push on as rapidly as possible, to overtake the main 
body, at that time probably at Panama. 

In the morning we were again disappointed in transportation. This 
was Tuesday, 20th July. While endeavoring to get from the contractor 
mules for myself and necessary stores, I was called to see a soldier said 
to be ill of cramps. I found a case of malignant cholera, of the most 
aggravated character. The man died in six hours. Upon instituting 
a rigid inquiry, I found that the disease was, and had been for some 
time, prevailing in the town; that numbers had died, and were still 
dying there; and that a physician had been sent there from Panama 
for the special purpose of treating such cases. It was of course impos- 
sible for me to leave the detachment under such circumstances. I, 
therefore, decided to remain until the men were all started, and this 
more especially, as I was informed from day to day by passengers 
from Panama that the main body had gone on board the transport in 
Panama bay, and that there was no disease among them. I thought 
it but prudent, however, to urge the quartermaster to as speedy a 
movement from the place as possible; and by my advice he determined 
if the requisite transportation was not furnished by the next morning, 
to procure it himself of anybody, at any price, and require the con- 
tracting parties to pay for it. It must be observed that a subcontractor 
had agreed to furnish mules for 11 cents a pound, and all this time 
they were in demand for private transportation at 16 to 20 cents. We 
had the vexation of seeing hundreds of citizens forwarded, with scarcely 
an hour's detention, while our men were kept at the most unhealthy 
point of the Isthmus for five days, with no adequate effort on the part 
of the contractors to forward us to Panama. The next morning we 
were no better off. Captain Grant then went into the market, and 
succeeded in completing a contract before night with a responsible per- 
son, for the requisite number of mules, to be ready early the next day. 
In the meanwhile several cases of cholera occurred, and we had four 
more deaths. One man convalesced from the disease, but too ill to 


move, I was obliged to leave him in charge of the alcalde and the town 
physician. I recommended, under the circumstances, that the whole 
detachment should be furnished with mules, lest the fatigue of march- 
ing over so desperate a road should excite the disease in men predis- 
posed to it, and they should perish, without the possibility of my aiding 
them, on the way. This was done, but notwithstanding every precau- 
tion on our part, three fatal cases did occur on the road. 

In compliance with Captain Grant's contract, a large number of 
mules, both saddle and cargo, were brought up in the morning, and 
despatched as fast as possible with riders and burdens, respectively; 
by 1 p. m. about one-half our men and nearly one-half our baggage 
were on the road. The usual rain then coming on operations were 
necessarily suspended for the day. I must here remark that the pre- 
servation of anything like order or organization in the forwarding of 
troops or baggage on mules across the Isthmus is altogether out of the 
question. The moment a rider or a cargo is placed upon a mule's back 
that moment he must set out, or the muleteer strips his mule and 
carries him off. Our movement was, therefore, of necessity, a straggling 
one, each man making his way to Panama as he best could, when once 
mounted. The next morning, before 10 o'clock, the last of our men 
was on the way, and most of the remaining baggage, and then I set 
out myself. I reached Panama before dark, but too late to go to the 
ship that night. I learned that she was lying off Toboga, 12 miles 
down the bay; that cholera had broken out on board and carried off 
a number of men. A small steamer communicated with her once a 
day only, leaving Panama at 5 p. m. I was, therefore, detained at 
Panama until that hour the following day. Here I learned that six of 
the cabin passengers by the Ohio (our ship) had died in Panama of 
cholera contracted on the Isthmus. 

I proceeded to the ship on the first opportunity, and there was in- 
formed that the main body had passed three nights on the road between 
Gorgona and Panama without shelter; that they were drenched by 
the rains every day; that the order relative to fruits and drink had been 
entirely disregarded, and in consequence several men had been attacked 
by cholera and died on the way. After their arrival upon the ship, 
the surgeon of that and of two other ships of the same line had been 
constant in their attendance upon the sick, and abundance of hospital 
stores and medicines had been furnished by the company. That day 
(Saturday) the sick had been removed to a hulk anchored near, and a 
detail of men to nurse them, under the charge of an officer, had been 
seHt on board by the commanding officer. I went on board the hulk 


and passed the night there. Several new cases were sent on board 
from the ship during the night. The next day, Dr. Martin, of the 
Columbia, kindly volunteered to take my place, and I got some sleep. 
I passed the next night again on board the hulk, besides frequent 
visits during the day. The next day I was obliged to apply to the 
commanding officer for assistance. It was impossible for anyone to 
endure such an amount of physical and mental exertion any longer. 
We had, fortunately, among our passengers, Dr. Deal, of California, 
a physician of experience and intelligence, with whom a contract was 
made to perform the duties of an assistant surgeon on board the Golden 
Gate, from that time until she reached San Francisco, for the moderate 
sum of $250. Had we known what was before us we could not have 
secured his services for ten times the amount. 

Tuesday, 27th July, the disease was evidently subsiding. No new 
cases had occurred during the night, and the sick were, for the most 
part, improving. I entertained strong hopes that as soon as our baggage 
was all received we should be in condition to prosecute our voyage. 
In this hope, however, we were doomed to be disappointed. In the 
afternoon of that day we had a heavy rain, against which many of our 
men were but ill protected. Upon the arrival of the small steamer 
in the evening about a dozen knapsacks were received, that had been 
lying and moulding somewhere on the Isthmus for a long time. The 
men to whom they belonged seized upon them immediately with great 
eagerness, and opened them to get a change of clothing. I was after- 
wards informed that some of these men fell sick while in the act. Be this 
as it may, in about 20 hours afterwards they were all taken ill of cholera 
in its worst form and within an hour of each other, and most of them 
died. The disease having thus reappeared, it was determined to land 
the troops. There being shelter for the sick upon the island of Flaminco, 
about six miles from Panama, the debarkation was effected upon the 
29th; the sick were placed in huts, and the well in a few tents and under 
sails stretched over poles. On the 1st August, Brevet Major Gore was 
attacked, and died on board the Golden Gate. His was the last case 
of cholera that occurred, and he the only officer we lost. I recommended 
to Colonel Bonneville to destroy any other knapsacks that might be 
received from the Isthmus, and to have the ship fumigated with 
chlorine, which was done. Several other officers were threatened, but, 
by timely means, escaped a decided attack. Upon the island a number 
of those previously ill died, but no new cases appeared. The fever of 
the country, however, began to show itself, which made all anxious to 
leave Panama as soon as possible. 


On the 3d August, the Golden Gate determined to go to sea the next 
day, but refused to take on board more than 450 of our people, and 
expressly declared that she would not receive a single sick man. To 
this extraordinary demand we were forced to submit, and I was accord- 
ingly ordered to remain on the island with the sick, most of the women 
and children, and one company of troops to act as nurses, etc., until 
the next steamer should sail. I approved of the proposal to divide the 
command between two ships, but could not agree as to the propriety 
of leaving all the sick for another steamer, as a similar objection would 
probably be made to their reception on board of her. I was, however, 
overruled, and on the 4th August, the Golden Gate sailed with 450 well 
men, Dr. Deal acting assistant surgeon. The three months' supply 
for the regiment being stowed away in the hold of the ship, I placed it 
in charge of Dr. Deal, with the packer's list, that he might use such of 
the medicines and store that he should need on the voyage; the re- 
mainder to be left with the medical purveyor at Benicia. Dr. Deal 
was discharged at the termination of the voyage, and I have not seen 
him since, nor have I had any report from him. I have ascertained, 
however, that he had ninety cases of fever and diarrhoea on the voyage, 
and three deaths. These are embodied in my report. I have also 
learned that, not being able to find the box containing the sulphate 
of quinine, he had purchased two ounces at Acapulco and borrowed 
more of the ship, which has since been returned. 

Upon the 7th of August it was announced that the steamer North- 
erner would take us on board and sail the next day. The surgeon of 
that ship was sent on shore to inspect our men; and although he 
thought there were several cases of fever that would die, still, as no 
infectious disease was prevailing, he made no objection to receiving 
them on board. Arrangements were accordingly made for embarking. 
The sick were to be first sent on board and accommodated before the 
ship should be crowded with the well. By a mistake of the agent a 
scow was sent to the island this evening to take us on board. In this 
scow our baggage was first stowed, and the sick placed upon it. In 
a few minutes the whole was flooded away, owing to the leaky condition 
of the scow. Our sick and baggage were hastily transferred to boats 
alongside, and thus sent to the steamer. It was this accident that 
caused the damage to the instruments that were afterwards con- 
demned by a board of survey. 

It happened afterwards that it was not intended we should be em- 
barked that evening, and the consequence of the blunder was a remon- 
strance on the part of the other passengers against our sick being per- 


mitted to remain on board. After a great deal of negotiation it was finally 
agreed that a few of the worst cases might be left in hospital at Taboga, 
under the special charge of the agent of the company, he guaranteeing 
that every comfort and suitable medical attendance should be provided 
for them, and they forwarded as soon as possible. I considered it of 
the greatest importance that we should leave that climate, as our well 
men were daily sickening with the fever. Accordingly four men were 
selected to be left, by the ship's surgeon, which satisfied the passengers, 
and on the 8th of August we embarked the remainder and put to sea. 

We arrived at Benicia on the 26th of August, having lost but one 
man on the voyage. He died of the secondary fever of cholera. Upon 
my arrival at Benicia I found a large sick report from among the men 
shipped on the Golden Gate. They were ill of diarrhoea, dysentery, and 
typhoid fever. The men were destitute of clothing, and were in tents, 
exposed to intense heat by day and to very cold nights. By the advice 
of Assistant Surgeon Griffin they were ordered from the tents into some 
new cavalry stables just finished, and with marked good effect. The 
character of the fever was decidedly typhoid, and the dysenteries 
generally assumed the same type. 

With regard to the treatment of the cholera as it prevailed among us, 
I have only to say that all the usual means were tried, and with the 
usual want of success. The first cases were nearly all fatal. I think the 
free exhibition of brandy with capsicum and chloride sodium was 
about as successful as anything. We found the acetas plumbi, in 
doses of five to ten grains, a valuable means of restraining the diar- 
rhoea. I feel sure many cases were relieved by it that would have term- 
inated in malignant cholera without speedy relief. Mustard and 
bottles of hot water with frictions of the surface externally, camphor, 
calomel, and quinine internally, were freely used. But, as I have al- 
ready remarked, and as usually happens in severe epidemics, the chances 
are that the cases first attacked will die and that the ratio of the 
mortality will diminish with the duration of the epidemic. In this epi- 
demic we lost about eighty men. 

Very respectfully, your obd't serv't, 



Surgeon-General, Washington, D. C. 

Another account by an English traveller, Charles T. Bid- 
well, of a crossing a year later, is also interesting: 


"That the traveller may form some idea of the previous 
difficulties of the transit across the Isthmus, I may give my 
own experience of it, no later back than the year 1853. 
I extract this from my journal, written at that time, and I 
wrote then, as I do now, without exaggeration. The travel- 
ler who finds himself comfortably carried across the Isthmus 
in a comparatively cool railway carriage, will hardly be able 
to form an idea of the fatigue, annoyance, and expense of 
crossing in 'old times'; and, as I have said, the account of 
my experiences is no exaggerated account of what had to 
be undergone by passengers even ten or twelve years ago. 
Yet even then thousands of men, aye, and delicate women 
and young children, were exposed to the dangers of the 
Isthmus transit. 

"We anchored in Navy or Limon Bay, at Colon, alias 
Aspinwall, and at all events the Atlantic port of the Isthmus 
of Panamd, and our port of disembarkation. After a very 
early and hurried breakfast we left the good ship, which had 
brought us thus far safely, for the miserable town now rising 
out of a swamp, and struggling for a new name; a place, 
however, of growing importance, in consequence of the rapidly 
increasing traffic across the Isthmus of Panama". It is, and 
is to be, the Atlantic terminus of the railway now being 
constructed, and at present it supports three or four so-called 
hotels, while buildings as ostentatious as painted wood and 
large sign-boards can make them, are fast appearing in what 
a few months ago was an almost uninhabitable swampy 

"We found here, too, a British vice-counsel, who had 
removed from the old port of Chagres, and who had his 
office on the top of one of the several 'medical stores/ 
which the unhealthy climate and bad liquors of the 'drink- 
ing saloons' doubtless lucratively supported. Here, too, 
we began to learn the value of a dollar, and the free Jamaica 


negroes' estimate of service equivalent to that coin; indeed 
everything, as may be supposed, is enormously dear, and a 
great many shillings have to be expended before one gets 
one's luggage removed from the landing to the railway car, 
a distance of a few yards. . . . 

"We had the privilege to leave this unattractive spot by 
a train at nine A.M., and after frequent stopping to take in 
supplies of wood, that being the fuel consumed, we arrived 
at Barbacoas at about noon. . . . 

"The distance from Colon to Barbacoas is 23J^ miles, 
and the railway fare is eight dollars (1. 12s.), with an extra 
charge for luggage. 

"At Barbacoas we made up a party of fourteen, including 
some ladies; and hired a canoe to convey us to Gorgona, on 
the Chagres River, and our next stage; for this we paid four 
dollars (16s.) each person, and after an attempt at refresh- 
ments, which cost another dollar, and paying 'just one 
more dollar ' to have our luggage put into the boat (although 
we had previously paid to have it brought from the train to 
the water's edge), we started on our trip. We were poled 
along the river by five native boatmen, whose dress was of 
that light description which approaches to 'airy nothing.' 
The men, however, worked well, refreshing themselves now 
and then by floundering into the bright stream, returning 
to their work without the preliminary of towels. We were 
fortunate in having for our journey a lovely day, and a good- 
sized, tolerably comfortable boat, which was nicely shaded 
from the sun by awnings and curtains; so the afternoon was 
spent pleasantly enough; now in concocting and drinking 
refreshing beverages, under the direction of an Italian lady, 
a great hand at that art; now in trying our pistols at the 
wild turkey and water-fowl that presented itself. The 
Chagres River, as far as we traversed it, was interesting and 
pretty. The stream was brisk and clear, and was shaded 


nearly the whole way by the luxuriant trees and pretty 
orchids of the tropics, and we happily escaped with only 
one or two smart showers during the trip. 

"We arrived at Gorgona, a small native village, about 
thirty-five miles from the Atlantic, between five and six in 
the evening, and as it was then too late to go on to Cruces 
by boat, we were compelled to make up our minds, and, as 
it turned out, our beds too, to spend the night at Gorgona. 
Here four or five wooden houses, bearing large sign-boards, 
offering hospitality and accommodation to travellers, strug- 
gled for our patronage, but, as we afterwards found, this 
accommodation extended little beyond the outside declara- 
tion; indeed, a more dirty, disagreeable, uncomfortable 
place to pass a night in would with difficulty be found in 
the highway of modern travel. 

"We selected, 'faute de mieux,' the Union Hotel, and 
after paying more dollars to have our luggage conveyed from 
the boat thither, we sat down with ravenous appetites to 
doubtful eggs, the hardest of hard Yankee ham, rice, and 
preserved cranberries; and from all such fare may I be pre- 
served in future! Hunger, however, knows no laws. We 
had not made a regular or an eatable meal since our last 
dinner on board the West India steamer, so this fare, bad as 
it was, was acceptable. The place contained a few stores 
and more drinking ' saloons/ which were principally kept by 
the 'enterprising Yankee.' The Gorgona road to Panamd 
was just then open, it being passable only in the dry season, 
and it was estimated that two thousand persons had passed 
through this place during the last week on their way to or 
from California. I noticed here one sign-board, the posi- 
tion of which struck me as peculiarly a propos to the true 
state of things; it was that of the Traveller's Home,' and 
either by accident or design, the board was hanging upside 
down! After our meal, we took a stroll over the village to 


arrange the preliminaries for our departure in the morning, 
and one of my companions, an officer in the navy, who was 
proceeding to the Pacific to join his ship, found that a new 
trunk which he had brought from England was too large to 
be conveyed by mule to Panama. It had cost him 5 in 
London, and seven dollars (1. 8s.) to get it thus far on the 
road; but there was no help for it, he had to sell it here for 
four dollars (16s.), and pay a dollar more for a packing-needle 
to sew his traps up in blankets, which blankets cost some 
dollars more. 

"We decided to take the Gorgona road, and arranged to 
have saddle mules ready early in the morning, to convey 
us to Panama for 20 dollars (4) each, and to pay 16J/2 cents, 
or 9d. a pound additional, for the conveyance of our luggage. 
Having settled these important details, paid down the cash, 
and given up our luggage, except that which could be strung 
to our saddles, we went to inspect a 'free ball,' which had 
been got up with all available splendour in celebration of 
some feast, and here we had a rare opportunity of seeing 
assembled many shades of colour in the human face divine; 
a gorgeous display of native jewellery, and not the most 
happy mixture of bright colours in the toilettes of those 
who claimed to be the 'fair sex.' Dancing, however, and 
drinking, too, seemed to be kept up with no lack of spirit 
and energy, to the inharmonious combination of a fiddle 
and a drum; and those of the assembly whose tastes led 
them to quieter pursuits, had the opportunity of losing at 
adjoining gambling-tables the dollars they had so easily and 
quickly extracted from the travellers who had had occasion 
to avail themselves of their services. These tables, too, were 
kept by the 'enterprising Yankee.' Having seen all this, 
and smoked out our cigars, we sought our beds, when we 
found for each a shelf or 'bunk' in a room which our host 
boasted had, at a push, contained twenty-five or thirty per- 


sons. We luckily were fewer, and the fatigue of our journey 
sent ' soft slumbers ' to aid us to forget our present cares and 
wants, and prepare us for the morrow. 

"On awaking at daylight, I found a basin and a pail of 
water set out in the open air on an old piano-forte, which 
some rash traveller had probably been tempted to bring 
thus far on the road, and, as its interior would not con- 
veniently sew up in blankets, like the contents of my friend 
R. N.'s trunk, it had become so far reduced in circumstances 
as to serve as our wash-hand stand. I at once proceeded to 
make a most refreshing open-air toilette, and after a break- 
fast of the same nature as our supper, we mounted our mules 
for our onward journey. 

"It was a strange scene, that starting from Gorgona, and 
reminded me of the famous start of good John Gilpin. But 
there was no fear of our steeds bolting with us. They had 
only arrived from Panamd the night before, and any animal 
less stupid than a mule would have flatly refused the journey 
now. For us, 'necessitas non habet legem.' And all honour 
must be given to the Isthmus mules, notwithstanding their 
stupidity, for the good service these hard-working, sure- 
footed animals did, in days gone by, and did then, under bad 
food and worse treatment. 

"Our party was now broken up, and with only six 01 my 
old companions, a small despatch-case, a bag, and a soda- 
water bottle of brandy tied to the saddle, I bade farewell to 
the shades of Gorgona, at seven A.M. The brandy was the 
last of the good things of the ship, and the only provision 
which I was induced to take, although in those days the 
West India steamers provided pic-nic packages for the 
Isthmus travellers. 

"We had not proceeded more than a mile on our road 
before we overtook an Italian of our yesterday's party, with 
his wife and daughter, all walking; the two latter being 


afraid to ride the mules they had hired, and which followed 
them, led by the guides. 

"The road, a narrow bridle-path through the forest, was 
bad beyond description; in many places the mud was so 
deep that it covered the legs of both mule and rider, while 
those who were not thrown off into it, were frequently 
obliged to unseat themselves to allow the animal to get out 
of it. The weather was excessively hot, although we had 
several heavy showers of rain during the day, and we could 
seldom get our mules out of a slow walk; for even those who 
were most successful were obliged to stop for some of the 
party lagging behind, hence the ride was toilsome and tire- 
some in the extreme. 

"One old Englishman of our party who was very stout, 
and, consequently, very heavy, was continually either 
throwing his unfortunate animal down or falling off himself, 
so that it was utterly impossible to get on with anything 
like speed ; and not to mend matters, towards the afternoon 
an irascible gentleman lost a bag from his saddle, containing, 
among other valuables, his letters of credit; and when, after 
a long search, the bag was found by a native (who was 
rewarded by a couple of dollars), the important papers were 
missing. This very nearly led to a 'row/ for pistols and 
bowie-knives were produced; but as the missing papers 
actually turned up afterwards, it was only another cause of 
delay. But after more or less interruption, we at last 
arrived at a hut called the 'True-half-way-house,' and it 
being then six o'clock, we were obliged to halt for the night, 
giving our mules in charge of two guides who had accom- 
panied us. 

Again we sat down to supper, tired, hungry and dirty; 
and again hard ham, bad eggs, and cranberries. The 
'house,' as it was called, had been newly built, having for 
walls nothing but fir poles about three inches apart, and for 


a roof out-stretched canvas. The establishment comprised 
an Irishman, a Frenchman, and two Americans. There 
were several pigs, too, running about, and one fine turkey, 
but no other hut or habitation near. One of my compan- 
ions, a German, caused much amusement by asking for a 
boot-jack, and aspiring to have his muddy boots cleaned. 
Being tired and stiff from sitting all day in the saddle, I 
smoked my dear Havana and turned again into a bunk, 
where I soon fell asleep and became food for mosquitoes. 
I awoke at day-break, and arousing our landlord, who slept 
above me, and my German friend, who, after having bathed 
his body in a pie-dish of brandy, had reposed below me, we 
soon got ready for breakfast, and got breakfast ready for 
us. Oh! for the Gorgona pail of water and pianoforte! 
Alas, I was only allowed to dash a teacupful of water in my 
poor mosquito-bitten face, for water here was a luxury. As 
the coffee and tea were kept in saucepans on the fire during 
the night, we had not long to wait for our meal; again hard 
ham, hard biscuit, and by way of change, onions and 
treacle! Having paid for this 'accommodation' two and a 
half dollars (10s.), we started in search of our mules, which 
we had been compelled to pay for before hand, and found to 
our dismay that the guides had made off with them during 
the night. Nothing then remained for it but to walk the 
rest of the distance to Panamd in about twelve miles of mud, 
and what was even less agreeable, carry those of our traps 
which we had brought with us. 

"It was about half-past six o'clock when we left the 
'True-half-way-house,' which we afterwards learned was 
one mile nearer to Panama than half-way from Gorgona. 
The road, although very rough and bad, was a vast im- 
provement upon that we had traversed on the previous day; 
but the morning sun was extremely hot, and the heat of the 
whole day excessive. We took off our coats, rolled them 


into bundles, and strung them with our traps across our 
shoulders, and so marched on to Panama, arriving there 
about one in the afternoon. 

"Never in my life had I been in such a mess! After a 
glorious wash I at once went to bed, sending the servant to 
purchase for me a clean ready-made suit from head to foot, 
for our luggage had not yet arrived. Nor did it arrive 
until two days after us. This delay in the arrival of one's 
luggage was, I learned, of frequent occurrence; and the 
people at the hotel told me, quite a matter of course, that I 
had better buy what I required for the present. It was 
more by good luck than anything else that I was enabled to 
do so, for I had spent in crossing all the loose cash I had set 
apart for the Isthmus transit, and my letters of credit were 
on Lima. Those who like myself were out of cash, and not 
so fortunate as to find friends at Panama, remained in bed 
until their clothes were dry. 

"In those days the gold fever had reached even Panamd. 
Everybody tried to make money, and many indeed made 
fortunes. I remember finding at the hotel several Ameri- 
can ladies, who occupied the time they were detained for 
their ship by making dresses for women and children com- 
ing from Colon, who were sure to arrive without their lug- 
gage. These dresses were easily sold for large sums. . . . 

"From the foregoing it will be seen that the distance to 
be traversed, whether from Chagres to Panamd, or from 
Colon to Panama, was, after all, trifling; but there appears 
to have been an utter want of provision for the requirements 
of the travellers, who, as I have said before, arrived by hun- 
dreds. The old road of the time of the Spaniards seems to 
have been allowed to fall into the most complete disorder, 
and to render difficulties more difficult. The mules were 
often insufficient in number to meet the demands of the 
passengers and their luggage, and when to be obtained they 


had frequently been overworked, and were unfit to make the 
trip. Provisions, as shown, were difficult to procure, and, 
when procured, very bad in quality, while the other abso- 
lute necessities, such as change of clothing and proper 
sleeping-places, after a day's exposure to a broiling sun and 
heavy rain, it was impossible to procure at any price. V/as 
it any wonder, then, that people unaccustomed to such hard- 
ships fell victims to them, and that Panamd, became best 
known in those days as the seat of a malignant fever, often 
fatal to the European? . . . 

"In these earlier days of Isthmus travel, the now almost 
abandoned hotels of Panamd were quite insufficient to 
accommodate the hordes from the United States, who were 
attracted to California by the gold discoveries, although 
four or five beds were placed in each room, and often two 
persons in each bed. Lodgings were gladly taken in even the 
most miserable rooms, and with the most wretched accommo- 
dation, while passengers often encamped in the open streets 
and squares of the city. The old city was literally astounded 
by the influx of noisy Yankees who paraded the town, armed 
with bowie-knives and revolvers, which were from time to 
time made use of in the excitement caused by gambling and 
the liquor of the impromptu drinking-saloons. From these 
earlier emigrants, and from such men as accompanied Walker 
in Nicaragua, the South Americans derived their first knowl- 
edge of the American of the northern States. The impres- 
sion created was far from favorable. Emigrants who had no 
thought about the Isthmus but an impatient desire to get 
away from it appeared to the Panamefios like invaders, who 
were only waiting for an opportunity to seize the town, or 
who had already taken possession of it. ... 

"In April, 1856, a fracas occurred between the natives 
and passengers, arising out of a dispute about some fruit, 
which has since been known as the 'Panamd Massacre.' 


The knives of the natives and the revolvers of the Yankees 
were alike called into play. The contempt of the Americans 
for the blacks of Panamd, and the dislike and fear of the 
natives of the Americans, but too readily kindled the spark 
into a flame. The bewildered governor ordered his ragged 
soldiers to fire upon the passengers, and several innocent 
lives were sacrificed and much property destroyed before 
this lamentable affair ended. This was but the explosion of 
antipathies and jealousies long pent up. . . . 

"Among the temporary settlers on the Isthmus, who were 
attracted by the hope of making a rapid fortune out of the 
by-passers, were many Americans, who had earned titles 
in the war in Texas; almost every American was a colonel 
or captain. Funny stories are told of two brothers who set 
up an hotel in Panama; one was a major, and the other a 
colonel. A companion of mine went to the hotel upon one 

occasion to engage beds, and asked to see Mr. , the 

proprietor: 'Which one do you want, sar?' inquired the 
negro servant. 'Well, I don't know/ my companion replied; 
' I merely meant to engage beds for some passengers who are 
expected to-morrow.' 'Oh, then it's the major you want,' 
replied the servant; 'the colonel attends to the bar the 
major to the bedrooms.'" 



THE gold rush of '49 re-established the Isthmus as a place 
of world-interest. It was no longer the forgotten province 
of a mis-governed federation. The days had passed when 
the inhabitants could cut each other's throats without 
attracting attention. The world had need of Panama, once 
more, as a traffic route. 

The building of the Panama railroad was a token of the 
new times. It was one of the most creditable operations 
which we of the North have undertaken in the South. It 
was a new kind of bravery which these Gringos brought to 
Latin America when, in the year 1850, they waded into the 
jungle-swamp with their transits and axes. It was five years 
later, July 27th, 1855, when the first locomotive crossed from 
ocean to ocean. About eight miles of track a year. Five 
years of as bitter hardship as that of any Polar expedition. 

The history of the Panama railroad really begins before 
the discovery of gold in California. As early as 1848, W. H. 
Aspinwall, Henry Chauncey and John L. Stevens had peti- 
tioned the government of New Granada for a concession 
under which they and their associates might construct a 
railroad across the Isthmus, from some point on the Carib- 
bean to the ancient city of Panama on the Pacific. 

But it is extremely doubtful whether they could have 
raised the necessary capital if the gold rush had not focused 
public attention on the little strip of land between the 




Early in 1850, J. L. Stevens went to Bogota, and in 
April of that year the concession for the Panama railroad 
was signed. 

There was some discussion about where to locate the 
Atlantic terminus. The first intention seems to have been 
to start from the commodious harbor which Columbus, when 
he had visited the coast three hundred and fifty years before, 
had named Puerto Bello. Mr. Tracy Robinson, in his 
memoirs of Isthmian life, says that "if tradition may be 
trusted," this plan was abandoned because a New York 
speculator had bought up all the land about the harbor and 
held it at an exorbitant figure. Whatever the reason for 
the change, it was decidedly to the advantage of the canal 
builders, who came later, that Navy Bay was chosen instead. 

Work began in May, 1850. "The Illustrated History of 
the Panama Railroad," by Fessenden Nott Otis, describes 
the start in rather flowery periods: 

"Messrs. Troutwine and Baldwin struck the first blow 
upon this great work. No imposing ceremonies inaugu- 
rated the 'breaking ground.' Two American citizens, leap- 
ing, axe in hand, from a native canoe upon a wild and deso- 
late island, their retinue consisting of half a dozen Indians, 
who clear the path with rude knives, strike their glittering 
axes into the nearest tree; the rapid blows reverberate from 
shore to shore, and the stately cocoa crashes upon the beach. 
Thus unostentatiously was announced the commencement of 
a railway, which, from the interests and difficulties involved, 
might well be looked upon as one of the grandest and boldest 
enterprises ever attempted." 

A few pages further on, Mr. Otis's style becomes a bit 
less ornate: 

"The island was still uninhabitable (their base of action 
was Manzanillo island, the site of the present city of Colon, 
A.E.), and the whole party were forced to live on board the 


brig, which was crowded to its utmost capacity. Here they 
were by no means exempt from the causes which deterred 
them from living on shore, for below decks the vessel was 
alive with mosquitoes and sand flies, which were a source of 
such annoyance and suffering that almost all preferred to 
sleep upon the deck, exposed to drenching rains, rather than 
endure their attacks. In addition to this, most of their 
number were kept nauseated by the ceaseless motion of the 
vessel. Labor and malarious influences during the day, 
exposure and unrest at night, soon told upon their health, 
and in a short time more than half were attacked with 
malarious fever. Having neither a physician nor any com- 
fortable place of rest, their sufferings were severe." 

On the preliminary survey, it was sometimes necessary for 
the men to carry their lunches tied to their head and to eat 
them, standing waist-deep in the water of the swamp. 

Mr. Otis's "Illustrated History" was published on behalf 
of the company and, being in the nature of a prospectus, 
dismisses the "diseases" these pioneers had to face, as lightly 
as possible. But there are many contemporaneous records, 
however, which give more vivid pictures of the Black Death 
which struck down the men of the railroad. I have chosen 
the following passages from Tomes' "Panama in 1855," be- 
cause, as he was a guest of the railroad at the time of the 
formal opening, he is little likely to have maliciously exag- 
gerated the dangers of the Isthmus. 

"The unhealthiness of the climate has been one of the 
most serious obstacles against which the enterprise has 
struggled. I need not dwell upon the causes which produce 
those diseases. The alternation of the wet and dry season, 
a perpetual summer-heat, and the decomposition of the 
profuse tropical vegetation, must of course generate an in- 
tense miasmatic poison, and I was not surprised when the 
oldest and most experienced of the physicians employed on 


the railroad, declared to me that no one, of whatever race 
or country, who becomes a resident of the Isthmus, escapes 

" I am indebted to the same gentleman just mentioned for 
some interesting facts. From him I learned that those who 
were exposed to the miasmatic poison of the country were 
generally taken ill in four or five weeks, although sometimes, 
but rarely, not for four or five months after exposure. That 
the first attack was generally severe; and took the form of 
yellow or bilious remittent, or malignant intermittent fever. 
That although none were exempt, the miasmatic poison 
affected the various races with different degrees of rapidity. 
That the African resisted the longest, next the cooly, 
then the European, and last in order the Chinese, who gave 
in at once. The rate of mortality, I was informed, was, for 
the natives of all races, one in fifty; the coolies, one in 
forty; the negroes (foreign), one in forty; the Europeans, one 
in thirty; and the Chinese, one in ten. ... I never 
met with a wholesome looking person among all those 
engaged upon the railroad. There was not one whose 
constitution had not been sapped by disease, and all, with- 
out exception, are in the almost daily habit of taking 
medicine to drive away the ever-recurring fever and 

"The railroad company are so far conscious of the debil- 
ity engendered by a residence on the Isthmus, that they 
refuse to employ those laborers who, having gone to a 
healthier climate to recruit, return to seek employment. 
It is found that such are unprofitable servants, and yield 
at once to the enervating and sickening climate. The en- 
terprise requires all the vigor of unweakened sinews, and 
of pure, wholesome blood. 

"A terrible fatality attended the efforts of the Railroad 
Company to avail themselves of the assistance of Chinese 


laborers. A ship arrived, and landed on the Isthmus some 
eight hundred, after a fair voyage from Hong Kong, where 
these poor devils of the flowery kingdom had unwittingly 
sold themselves to the service of the railroad, perfectly 
ignorant of the country whither they were going, and of 
the trials which awaited them. The voyage was tolerably 
prosperous, and the Chinese bore its fatigues and suffering 
with great patience, cheered by the prospects of reaching 
the foreign land, whither they had been tempted by the 
glowing descriptions of those traffickers in human life, who 
had so liberally promised them wealth and happiness. Six- 
teen died on the passage, and were thrown into the sea. 
No sooner had the eight hundred survivors landed, than 
thirty-two of the number were struck down prostrate by 
sickness; and in less than a week afterward, eighty more 
laid by their side. The interpreters who accompanied them 
attributed this rapid prostration to the want of their habitual 
opium. The drug was then distributed among them, and with 
the good effect of so far stimulating their energies that two- 
thirds of the sick arose again from their beds, and began to 
labor. A Maine opium law, however, was soon promulgated 
on the score of the immorality of administering to so perni- 
cious a habit, and without regard, it is hoped, to the ex- 
pense; which, however, was no inconsiderable item, since 
the daily quota of each Chinese amounted to fifteen grains, 
at the cost of at least fifteen cents. Whether it was owing to 
the deprivation of their habitual stimulus, or to the malig- 
nant effects of the climate, or home-sickness, or disappoint- 
ment, in a few weeks there was hardly one out of the eight 
hundred Chinese who was not prostrate and unfit to labor. 
The poor sufferers let the pick and shovel fall from their 
hands, and yielded themselves up to the agony of despair. 
They now gladly welcomed death, and impatiently awaited 
their turn in the ranks which were falling before the pesti- 


lence. The havoc of disease went on, and would have done 
its work in time, but as it was sometimes merciful, and spared 
a life, and was deliberate though deadly, the despairing 
Chinese could wait no longer; he hastily seized the hand of 
death, and voluntarily sought destruction in its grasp. 
Hundreds destroyed themselves, and showed, in their vari- 
ous methods of suicide, the characteristic Chinese ingenuity. 
Some deliberately lighted their pipes, and sat themselves 
down upon the shore of the sea, and awaited the rising of 
the tide, grimly resolved to die, and sat and sat, silent and 
unmoved as a storm-beaten rock, as wave arose above wave, 
until they sank into the depths of eternity. Some bargained 
with their companions for death, giving their all to the 
friendly hand, which, with a kindly touch of the trigger, 
would scatter their brains and hasten their death. Some 
hung themselves to the tall trees by their hair, and some 
twisted their queues about their necks, with a deliberate 
coil after coil, until their faces blackened, their eye-balls 
started out, their tongues protruded, and death relieved 
their agony. Some cut ugly, crutch-shaped sticks, shar- 
pened the ends to a point, and thrust their necks upon 
them until they were pierced through and through, and 
thus mangled, yielded up life in a torrent of blood. Some 
took great stones in their hands, and leaped into the depths 
of the nearest river, and clung, with resolute hold, to the 
weight which sunk them, gurgling in the agonies of drown- 
ing, to the bottom, until death loosened their grasp, and 
floated them to the surface, lifeless bodies. Some starved 
themselves to death refusing either to eat or drink. Some 
impaled themselves upon their instruments of labor and 
thus, in a few weeks after their arrival, there were but scarce 
two hundred Chinese left of the whole number. This miser- 
able remnant of poor, heart-sick exiles, prostrate from the 
effects of the climate, and bent on death, being useless for 


labor, were sent to Jamaica, where they have, ever since, 
lingered out a miserable beggar's life. 

"The Railroad Company was hardly more fortunate with 
another importation of live freight. A cargo of Irish 
laborers from Cork reached Aspinwall, and so rapidly did 
they yield to the malignant effects of the climate, that not a 
good day's labor was obtained from a single one; and so 
great was the mortality, that it was found necessary to ship 
the survivors to New York, where most died from the fever 
of the Isthmus which was fermenting in their blood." 

In another passage, Tomes gives an admirable summary of 
the material difficulties of the work: 

"The Isthmus did not supply a single resource necessary 
for the undertaking. Not only the capital, skill and enter- 
prise, but the labor, the wood and iron, the daily food, the 
clothing, the roof to cover and the instruments to work with, 
came from abroad. The United States supplied the enter- 
prising capitalists, the men of science, the engineers, the 
practical business managers, the superior workmen, the 
masons, carpenters and forgers of iron. Distant parts of the 
world supplied the laborers. From Ireland came crowds of 
her laborious peasantry. The negroes, stimulated to un- 
usual energy by the prospect of reward, thronged in from 
Jamaica. The surplus populations of India and China con- 
tributed their share. The mixed races of the province of 
Cartagena, the Indian, Spaniard and African, completed 
this representation of all nations, in which the Caucasian, 
Mongolian and African, the Anglo-American, European, 
Negro, American, Indian and Asiatic, with all their diverse 
temperaments, habits and religious faiths, mingled together 
appropriately to join in a work by which the ends of the 
earth were to be brought together for the common interests 
of the whole world. 

"Most of the material used for the construction of the 


road was brought from vast distances. Although the coun- 
try abounded in forests, it was found necessary, from the 
expense of labor and the want of routes of communication, 
to send the timber, for the most part, from the United States, 
and not only were the rails, to a considerable extent, laid 
on American pine, but the bridges, and the houses and work- 
shops of the various settlements, were of the same wood, all 
fashioned in Maine and Georgia. The metal-work, the rails, 
the locomotives, and the tools, were brought either from 
England or the United States. The daily food of the 
laborers, even, came from a New York market." 

But by October, 1851, they had laid the track as far as 
Gatun eight miles from the Atlantic terminus. This was 
the worst of the construction work, for at Gatun they 
struck solid ground. The first section had been through a 
mangrove swamp, in which they had been unable to find a 
bottom. The tracks were practically floated on an immense 
pontoon. It was not until many years later that the com- 
pany was able to get in a fairly solid road-bed. 

Although they had now reached solid ground, and the 
most difficult problem of construction had been solved, the 
work came to a standstill for lack of funds. The cost of 
labor was almost prohibitive. The various fevers of the 
Isthmus kept half their men on the sick list. The gold 
rush was still on, and the fortune-hunters were willing to 
pay anything to laborers who would help transport their 
luggage across the divide. Wages had gone up, in conse- 
quence. And the investors in the States had become dis- 
couraged it had taken twenty months to build eight miles. 
Just when things were looking blackest, a lucky hurricane 
turned the tide in favor of the railroad. 

Two steamships, the Georgia and the Philadelphia, arrived 
off the mouth of the Chagres, filled with passengers en route 
for California. In the days before the railroad, travellers 


went up the river in native canoes to Cruces, and from there 
to Panama, by mule back. The storm forced the two ships 
to seek shelter in Navy Bay. They dropped anchor close 
to the railroad company's pier on Manzanillo Island. The 
passengers were rabid with the gold hunger. The company 
had no passenger coaches, but the eager prospectors were 
only too anxious to pile onto work cars and be carried to 
Gatun, where they could get the native boats up-stream 
without waiting for the hurricane to blow itself out. The 
news that the railroad had carried over one thousand pas- 
sengers restored confidence on Wall Street, credit was re- 
established, and the work continued. 

By January, 1854, the summit ridge had been reached 
over thirty miles of track in operation. Work had been 
begun at the Panama end, and when the Atlantic division 
reached the summit, some track had already been laid in 
the eleven miles of the Pacific division. But here again 
the men encountered swamps, and work went slowly. It 
was not until midnight of January 27, 1855, that the last 
track was laid. The next day a train passed from sea to 

The short hauls of passengers en route to California, 
which was begun when the Georgia and Philadelphia were 
blown into Colon Harbor, were lengthened as the track 
was laid. From the beginning until the opening of the road 
in 1855, the company had taken in for the transportation of 
people and freight, $2,125,232.31. 

The road had cost in the neighborhood of seven millions 
of dollars, almost one hundred and fifty thousand a mile. 
But before its completion, it had paid nearly one-third of 
its cost. 

Although through trains were running across the Isth- 
mus, the road was not completed much of the work 
had been hurried to meet the insistent demand. Al- 


most a million more was spent in installing permanent 

The entire length of the line was 47 miles, 3.02 feet. It 
crossed one hundred and seventy waterways. Thirty-six 
of these required bridges over ten feet in length. Barbacoas 
bridge was a six-span affair, 625 feet in length. 

The gross earnings of the road, up to December 31, 1858, 
when the construction was practically completed, amounted 
to $8,146,605. 

"The running expenses, together with depreciation in 
iron, buildings, etc., amounted to $2,174,876, leaving a 
balance of $5,971,729 as the legitimate returns for the 
money invested in the road in a period of seven years, dur- 
ing the first of which but twelve miles were in operation; 
the second, twenty-three; the third, thirty-one; only for 
the last four years was the road in use throughout its entire 

"Out of these receipts, the directors of the company, 
having paid the regular interest on all mortgage and other 
bonds, a ten per cent, dividend to the stockholders in 1852, 
one of seven per cent, in each of the years 1853 and 1854, 
and one of twelve per cent, every succeeding year, showed 
a balance (December 31st, 1858) of $529,041, besides a 
sinking fund of $153,395.83, and no floating debt." 

Colonel Center, who was general manager when the road 
was completed, was embarrassed by the fact that he was 
under-equipped for the immense traffic he foresaw. 

Mr. Tracy Robinson gives the original tariffs of the rail- 
road as follows: 


First class $25.00 gold 

Steerage 10.00 gold 



Personal baggage $ .05 per pound 

Express 1.80 per cubic foot 

Ordinary first class 50 per cubic foot 

Second class 1.50 per 100 pounds 

Mails 22 per pound 

Coal 5.00 per ton 

And he tells the following amusing anecdote about them: 

''These rates," said Colonel Center to me, long after- 
wards, "were intended to be, to a certain extent, prohibi- 
tory, until we could get things in shape. As soon as we 
were on our feet and ready for business, we could, as I 
wrote the president, gracefully reduce our charges to within 
reasonable limits. For it is always pleasing to the public 
to have prices come down, rather than rise." 

However, they were not forced to cut these tariffs for more 
than twenty years. They soon began to declare dividends 
of 24% per annum, and the stock went up at one time to 

It is very doubtful if many of the men who rushed across 
the Isthmus to the California gold fields did as well by them- 
selves as if they had stayed at home and invested their 
passage money in Panama railroad stock. 

But the company after a time killed the goose which laid 
the golden egg. In 1860, less than one-fifteenth of their 
business was Californian trade. A large commerce had 
sprung up along the west coast of Central and South Amer- 
ica. Most of this business was brought to Panama by the 
Pacific Steam Navigation Company an English corpora- 
tion which had a practical monopoly of west coast transpor- 
tation. The Panama railroad, instead of entering into a 
percentage agreement with them which would have been 
profitable to both, tried to absorb all the profit. They be- 


came so extortionate in 1868 that the P. S. N. C. put on 
some big boats for a Liverpool service, via Cape Horn. 
The railroad lost most of its valuable business. 

They also fell among thieves in Bogota; the governmental 
clique refused to renew their franchise except on disastrous 
conditions. To cap the climax, the directors received news 
that the last rail had been laid in the Union Pacific rail- 
road. The Panama railroad was no longer the only trans- 
continental line. 

The affairs of the company went from bad to worse. 
The directorate fell into the hands of Russell Sage and a 
band of speculators. There came a period of corrupt man- 
agement. The rolling stock and equipment were allowed 
to run down until there was little left of the road beyond 
two streaks of rust. 

In 1880 the owners of the railroad reaped their last har- 
vest. By excessive freight-rates practically blackmail 
they forced the French to buy them out. De Lesseps paid 
$20,000,000 for this neglected road, which twenty-five years 
before had cost barely eight. 

When the United States bought out the French company 
in 1904, we also acquired the road. And so the old Panama 
railroad became our first government system. 

To-day it is one of the best equipped and most efficient 
railroads in the world. 

The annual report of the railroad for the year ending 
June 30th, 1910, shows gross earnings of $6,100,788.83. 
The track was being relocated, and the operating expenses 
amounted to $4,358,426.92, leaving considerably over one 
million clear. The net earnings of the steamship line from 
Colon to New York, which is operated by the railroad, was 
over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. 

What the future of the road will be, after the opening of 
the canal, is uncertain. But those who are in charge of it 


think that its business will be even larger. The terminal 
facilities are being largely increased. The administration of 
the railroad under national control has been so successful 
that it is being more and more often cited as an argument 
by those who advocate government ownership in the States. 



BALBOA had no sooner seen the Pacific from the mountain 
peak of Darien than he wanted to set sail on it. Within 
three years he had performed the incredible feat of carrying 
two ships in pieces across the Isthmus and launching 
them. Washington Irving considers this one of the most 
remarkable accomplishments of the Spaniards in the New 

The distance across the land is not great. It was probably 
less than twenty miles from navigable water to navigable 
water where Balboa crossed. The difficulty consisted in the 
appalling density of the jungle. To-day the most frequented 
passes outside of our Canal Zone present the worst trails 
in the world. With Indian guides and horses it is hard to 
make ten miles a day on some of the routes marked on the 
Government maps camino real main roads. To one who 
has tried them Balboa's expedition is almost unbeliev- 

Irving says: "The timber was felled on the Atlantic sea- 
board; and was then, with the anchors and rigging, trans- 
ported across the lofty ridge of mountains to the opposite 
shores of the Isthmus. Several Spaniards, thirty negroes, 
and a great number of Indians were employed for the pur- 
pose. They had no other roads but Indian paths, straggling 
through almost impervious forests, across torrents, and up 
rugged defiles broken by rocks and precipices. In this way 
they toiled like ants up the mountains, with their ponderous 



burdens, under the scorching rays of a tropical sun. Many 
of the poor Indians sank by the way and perished under this 
stupendous task." 

11 We can readily imagine," Irving continues after several 
pages more of description of appalling obstacles and dis- 
couragements, "the exultation of this intrepid adventurer, 
and how amply he was repaid for all his sufferings, when he 
first spread a sail on that untraversed ocean, and felt that 
the range of an unknown world was open to him." 

Balboa's ships, once afloat, carried him to the Pearl 
Islands, where he found rich treasure, and richer tales of 
Peru, to the south. After this news reached Madrid, the 
mountains and the jungles of the Isthmus proved an in- 
effectual barrier indeed. Panama City grew to considerable 
size as the outfitting post for the conquest of Peru, and, in 
time, a paved road was constructed from sea to sea. Al- 
most immediately the project of a canal began to be 

The first canal survey was made by Pascual Andagoya 
in 1534. He reported that the project was impractical. 
Philip II, crowned in 1555, was more interested in the wealth 
of the New World than in that of the Far East, and gave 
no encouragement to the idea. During his reign the Inquisi- 
tion is reported to have forbidden discussion of a canal, 
holding that to put asunder two continents which God had 
joined together would be impious. Paterson, the Presby- 
terian, seems to have dreamed of joining the oceans, but his 
enterprise succumbed to " fevers and fluxes." 

For nearly two centuries the idea was dead. But in 1735 
some French astronomers who had visited Central America 
revived the subject. In 1780 the English made an attempt 
to secure the Nicaragua coast, but, like the Scots Colonie, 
they were defeated by disease. Lord Nelson who was then 
only plain Horatio nearly died of the fever. In 1800 regu- 


lar transit from sea to sea was maintained in only one place 
the Mexican Isthmus of Tehuantepec. 

In the beginning of the nineteenth century new impetus 
was given to the discussion by the great naturalist Alexander 
von Humboldt. He wrote that a canal was practicable, 
and its construction was " calculated to immortalize a gov- 
ernment occupied with the true interests of humanity." 
This account fired the imagination of Goethe. In his con- 
versation with Eckermann and Soret of February 21, 1827, 
is recorded this remarkable prophecy: "I therefore repeat 
that it is absolutely indispensable for the United States 
to effect a passage from the Mexican Gulf to the Pacific 
Ocean; and I am certain that they will do it. ... I should 
like to see another thing a junction of the Danube and the 
Rhine; but this undertaking is so gigantic that I have grave 
doubts of its completion. . . . And, thirdly and lastly, I 
should wish to see England in possession of a canal through 
the Isthmus of Suez. Would I could live to see these three 
great works! It would well be worth the trouble to last 
some fifty years more for this very purpose I" 

In 1814 the Spanish Government again took up the 
project, but before anything could be accomplished the 
series of revolutions had begun in South and Central America 
which drove Spain from the mainland of this continent. 
The first diplomatic envoy from the liberated Central 
American states in 1825 took up the matter with Henry 
Clay, who was then our Secretary of State. In the next 
year " the Central American and United States Atlantic and 
Pacific Canal Company " was organized, with DeWitt Clin- 
ton of Erie Canal fame as one of its directors. Their 
concession lapsed because of lack of funds. 

One scheme followed another, our Government taking 
little interest in the matter beyond barking like a dog in the 
manger about the Monroe Doctrine whenever any foreigners 


started anything. However, in 1835 the Senate voted to 
construct a canal by way of Nicaragua. The expedition sent 
out as a result of this vote reported that the canal could be 
opened for twenty-five million dollars ! Louis Napoleon, be- 
fore he became Emperor, was vastly interested in the sub- 
ject, and wrote a flamboyant pamphlet about how it was the 
destiny of France to perform this great service to the race. 

With the middle of the last century the ''scientific spirit," 
which was rejuvenating all human thought, found its way 
to the Isthmus. The fantastic stories that the Pacific Ocean 
was twenty feet higher than the Atlantic, that the lowest 
pass was 957 feet high (von Humboldt's estimate), that the 
same pass was only 31 feet high (Moret's statement), and 
so forth, began to give place to exact information. 

The discovery of gold in California in '49 resulted in a 
great addition to our knowledge of Isthmian routes. Not 
since the early Spanish days had such a rush of humanity 
crossed Panama. This sudden burst of traffic was the 
inspiration of the romantic band of American railway men 
who built the Panama railroad. It was started in 1850 
and completed in 1855. During the first four years of its 
operation the railroad sold 121,820 tickets. 

About the same time, Cornelius Vanderbilt organized 
" The American Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company," 
and secured concessions for a transportation monopoly across 
Nicaragua sole rights for traffic by rail, water or turnpike. 
They established a line of steamers up the San Juan River 
and across Lake Nicaragua to Virgin Bay, and from there 
a line of stage coaches to the Pacific. 

Colonel O. W. Childs, of our army, made for the company 
the first accurate Isthmian Survey. But before work could 
be begun on the Canal, a revolution broke out. One of the 
momentary presidents declared the concession forfeited for 
" non-accomplishment." This company is still in existence. 


The advantages which would accrue from an Isthmian 
Canal which had before appealed to the speculative imagina- 
tions of such men as Goethe now because of the grow- 
ing importance of California began to impress business 
men and politicians. President Buchanan laid hold of the 
idea, and in 1857 despatched two lieutenants Craven of 
the navy and Michler of the army to make surveys. A 
dozen names could be cited of our military men who did 
valiant service in tearing the facts out of the heart of the 
jungle. Rear-Admiral Davis stands pre-eminent among 
them. Immediately after the Civil War he began to urge 
the construction of a canal by our Government. And from 
then on the history of the Canal is a tangle of diplomatic 
intrigue, Nicaragua and Colombia playing against each other 
at Washington the whole thing complicated by our en- 
tanglement with England. As the balance of favor in 
Washington seemed to be swinging towards the Nicaragua 
route, the Bogota Government, in a pet, gave a concession 
to a young French lieutenant, Lucien Napoleon Bonaparte 
Wyse. It is hard to determine whether he was a too opti- 
mistic engineer or a more than usually successful swindler. 
Many of his maps are now in existence. They are beauti- 
fully drawn and inaccurate. In his writings he vastly 
underestimated the difficulties of the undertaking, and he 
succeeded in organizing in France a speculative company, 
which shortly after sold out to the gang of financiers who 
surrounded de Lesseps. 

The extent of de Lesseps' responsibility in " The Panama 
Crime " is uncertain. Possibly the utter condemnation which 
followed his failure was as undeserved as the fulsome eulogies 
which greeted his earlier achievement were unmerited. 

Mr. Robinson's amiable estimate of his character quoted 
later would be easier to accept, if it was not for the sorry 
story of Suez. His success there had ruined his friend, the 


Khedive, drove him from his throne in bankruptcy. It 
was stained by atrocious cruelty to the fellaheen, who did the 
work. At Panama he pushed his luck a bit harder, took 
greater liberties with the Penal Code and did not get away 
with it. 

Expert opinion then favored the Nicaragua route for the 
small ships of those days it was preferable. But American 
companies held claims there, so de Lesseps turned to Panama. 

A " scientific " congress was called in Paris, May, 1879, to 
lend authority to the speculators. Only 42 of its 135 mem- 
bers were engineers. It had been " packed." The Panama 
sea-level project was adopted. The only engineer who voted 
for it had never been on the Isthmus. 

" The Universal Interoceanic Canal Company " was at 
once formed by buying the Wyse concession for $2,000,000. 
It was worthless without the good will of the Panama Rail- 
road, and it cost a fantastic price to get control of that 

The Company was launched with many banquets, florid 
speeches by le grand Frangais, and champagne without end. 
And all the while those who were on the inside were playing 
the market from both ends, sending the stock tumbling 
down the steps of the Bourse on a manufactured report that 
the United States was again waving the Monroe Doctrine, 
shooting them up again with a misquotation from the Presi- 
dent's message to the effect that we were enthusiastic in 
favor of the French enterprise. A sorrier exhibition of con- 
scienceless finance has seldom been seen. 

Meanwhile the Company was sending out men to the 
Isthmus, preliminary work was discovering the shortcomings 
of the Wyse surveys, and the engineers were beginning to 
get acquainted with yellow fever. Information about all 
this was skilfully handled by the directors, who denied it 
in their organ "Le Bulletin," or gave it out in exagger- 


ated form to the press, as they desired the stock to rise 
or fall. 

Late in 1879 de Lesseps, accompanied by his wife and three 
of his children, sailed from France. They reached Colon 
on the 30th of December. De Lesseps's arrival is described 
by Mr. Robinson in his book on Panama: 

"As one of a committee of reception I went on board the 
steamer to welcome the distinguished gentleman and his 
associates, through whom the fortunes of the Isthmus were 
to be established upon a basis of pure gold. . . . He was 
then over seventy years of age, but was still active and 
vigorous; a small man, French in detail, with winning 
manners, and what is called a magnetic presence. When he 
spoke, the hearer would not fail to be convinced that what- 
ever he said was true, or, at all events, that he believed it 
to be true. Thus, during the reception and the conversa- 
tions which followed he would answer every inquiry in regard 
to the Canal in the readiest and most amiable manner, and 
would invariably conclude with the assertion 'The canal 
will be made ! ' ' 

There were receptions and speeches in Colon, and the next 
day the party crossed the Isthmus to Panama, where, on 
New Year's Day, a formal opening of the Canal such as 
is dear to the heart of the French was performed by the 
Count and his little daughter. "Le Bulletin" records his 
speech : 

"Under the authority of the United States of Colombia, 

"With the blessing of Monseigneur, the Bishop of 
Panama, . . . 

"In the presence of the members of the Technical Com- 
mission for the Final Study of the Universal Interoceanic 
Maritime Canal, 

"Mile. Ferdinande de Lesseps on this first day of Janu- 
ary, 1880 will give the initial blow of a pickax [coup de 


pioche] on the point which will mark the entrance of the 
Canal on the side of the Pacific Ocean. 

"All present will then successively strike a blow in sign 
of the alliance of all the peoples who contribute to the union 
of the two oceans for the good of humanity." 

(Great applause and more champagne.) 

In striking contrast to this grandiloquence is the episode 
related in Otis's "Handbook of the Panama Railroad." 
Two Americans inaugurated that undertaking by climbing 
over the side of a boat up to their waists in water and 
doing a day's work cutting down mangrove trees. 

The same contrast is afforded by Major-General Davis's 
report of how he assumed control of the Canal Zone as its 
first Governor. On the 17th of May, 1904, he arrived on the 
Isthmus. On the 19th he presented his credentials to the 
President of Panama, and the same day "announced to the 
inhabitants of the land ceded . . . that the territory had 
been occupied by the United States of America, and that the 
temporary government over the same and its inhabitants 
had been assumed by the undersigned, acting for and in 
the name of the President of the United States. . . . 

"Very soon after the publication in Panama of the an- 
nouncement that the United States authorities had assumed 
control of the Canal Zone the Government of the Republic 
expressed objection to so summary or precipitate assumption 
of control." 

The Panamanians accustomed by the French to banquets 
and eloquence, not to mention champagne made diplomatic 
representations to Washington, and Governor Davis was 
ordered to put on his good clothes and "participate in any 
ceremonies or formalities that might be proposed by the 
Panama Government." 

De Lesseps stayed only a few days on the Isthmus, and 
then went to the States to try to smooth out the Monroe 


Doctrine. "Le Bulletin," which was published in Paris by 
the directors, contains glowing accounts of his enthusiastic 
reception. The editors and their friends were "long" on 
the stock at that moment. 

But, sinister as was the condition in Paris, things boomed 
on the Isthmus. There were hundreds of young engineers 
at work in the jungle who cared little and knew less about 
the Bourse, but who had reputations to make. The explora- 
tions they made, the minute and exact surveys they carried 
out, the amount of excavation they accomplished with their 
puny equipment, have been of great use to us. Our men on 
the job to-day have the highest respect for the men who 
worked here thirty years ago. 

There is an immense pathos in the idea of these men 
working so sincerely, in the midst of this fever-ridden jungle, 
for a gang of wildcat promoters in Paris. 

For, besides the treachery which threatened them from 
home, they were in their work face to face with overwhelming 

First of all, as it was not a Government undertaking, 
they had to let out the excavation to contractors. The con- 
ditions of the work were so unprecedented that for years 
they could only guess at the costs, and the terms of the 
contracts were haphazard. The private contractors took 
out the soft earth at the stipulated price per cubic yard, and 
then threw up their hands and went through bankruptcy 
in the face of the more difficult excavation. The Company 
was paying exorbitant prices for the easiest work, and not 
making any progress at all in the more formidable sections 
of the Canal. It lost money, or was probably intentionally 
cheated, by almost all the contractors. Two glowing excep- 
tions were the contracts let to an American named Slaven 
for dredging at the Atlantic entrance, and to the French 
company organized by M. Bunau-Varilla for dry excavation 


in Culebra Cut. The work accomplished by these two firms 
was remarkable and has proved of utility to us. 

Not the least of the Company's troubles arose from the 
unsatisfactory nature of the concession from Colombia. 
Besides the blackmail to which almost every foreign indus- 
trial enterprise is subject in Latin- American countries, the 
French were endlessly worried by the courts. The leading 
citizens of Colombia for awhile laid aside the profession of 
political revolutions and took up the law. The frequent 
bankruptcy of the contractors, the compensation claims of 
injured workmen, and so forth, gave endless excuse for 
litigation, and it was often started without excuse. The 
native courts always decided that the French could pay. 

But these complications, serious as they were, were mere 
fly-specks in comparison to the death roll from yellow and 
malarial fever. 

What the sick rate was among the French, how many of 
them died, it is to-day impossible to determine. "Le Bull- 
etin" naturally tried to minimize it. When M. Bionne, one 
of the most gifted prospectus writers and speakers employed 
by the Company, visited the Isthmus and died of the yellow 
fever, "Le Bulletin" claimed that it was apoplexy. Almost 
all the personal memoirs of those days record the crowded 
condition of the big hospitals at Ancon and Colon and the 
death of many a friend. 

Bunau-Varilla writes: "In September the diseases and 
death continued their work. The Director of Works, 
gravely ill himself, had to return to France, and so I was 
forced to assume the functions of the general administration 
with a working force decimated by disease and desertions. 

"Two talented engineers, MM. Petit and Sordoillet, were 
sent to me from Paris to take the posts of division chiefs. 
Their coming had made me hope for a seriously needed rein- 
forcement; but, unhappily, having arrived together, they 



were together taken to the cemetery fifteen days later, 
having fallen victims to the fatal malady which had so 
terribly torn open the ranks of our forces." 

The following statistics have been compiled by our sani- 
tary officers from the very incomplete data left by the French. 
They are believed to be much below the real mortality. 
The worst scourge was in the end of 1884 : 



1884 Officials Office Force Laborers White and 

Month White Negro White Negro White Negro Negro 

October 531 4 524 284 1,657 16,249 19,243 

November.. 562 4 583 281 1,600 15,906 18,936 

December... 556 3 577 286 1,503 15,802 18,727 




Annual death 

Yellow Total all rate per 1,000 

Fever Malaria Diseases for the month 

October 21 51 161 100.40 

November 20 56 162 102.66 

December 33 35 146 93.55 

With the coming of the "dry season" the scourge abated, 
to break out again the next year. Although there were no 
other three consecutive months with so terrible a showing 
as these last months of 1884, September of the next year 
reached the unprecedented annual death rate per thousand 
of 176.97. 

The visitor to the Isthmus to-day is sure to be told of 
"la folie Dingier." Dingier was probably the ablest engineer 
the French ever had in charge of the work. He came out 
in 1883. He was not afraid of the fever, and he built a 
mansion on the side of Ancon Hill, where the quarry is now. 
It would have been difficult for him to have found as beau- 
tiful a situation on the Cote d'Azur of his own country. But 


he never occupied the house. His wife and three children 
had come over from France, and, while the house was 
building, the fever took them all. 

Bunau-Varilla speaks of the fever as the greatest of all 
the difficulties the French had to face: 

"Subtle and fugitive, the mysterious disease seems to defy 
all observation, to laugh at all remedies. The victim whom 
it has struck is in the hands of hazard. The most erudite 
and devoted physicians must content themselves with admin- 
istering, not remedies which will check the progress of the 
malady, but simple palliatives, the effects of which are more 
moral than real. . . . 

"Out of each hundred individuals arrived on the Isthmus 
it is not exaggeration to say that, on an average, not more 
than twenty were able to keep at their posts in the construc- 
tion camp. And of this number how few although pre- 
serving that minimum of health which was strictly necessary 
had not lost some of their courage!" 

Even if all the French money had been honestly and 
economically expended, it is probable that the de Lesseps 
Company would have failed. It was not until the beginning 
of the new century that sanitary science progressed to the 
point of successfully pulling the teeth of the tropical jungle. 

The crash came in 1888. After eight years of as brave a 
fight as man had ever made against nature, the bubble burst. 
It is estimated that stock had been issued to the value of 
two hundred and fifty million dollars. It is doubtful if more 
than one million and a half ever got near enough to Panama 
to be expended on actual work. Most of this " paper " was 
held by French peasants and people of moderate means. 
They had been led into it by the great name of de Lesseps. 
You may be sure that none of the original promoters were 
caught with stock on their hands when the final break came. 
The scandal was immense. Many Government officials were 


involved. The shame of it drove the old man le grand 
Frangais insane. He died a few years later in an asylum. 

I have found nothing and the books on the subject are 
without end which seems to me to characterize the man so 
favorably as this from the pen of Mr. Robinson, who knew 
de Lesseps personally, and was on the Isthmus during the 
whole time of the Company's activity : 

"He was committed to the scheme, fully believed in it 
as a great and good scheme entirely possible of realization, 
and it is my opinion that from first to last he was perfectly 
conscientious and honest. 

"I am aware that the world at large does not take the 
same view. The question need not be discussed, nor need 
anything be added here to the already voluminous literature 
of this famous industrial failure. That M. de Lesseps was 
an enthusiast; that he did not possess the administrative 
abilities required for so great and so difficult a work; that 
he was too old, too eager, too vain of the glory it would add 
to his already great reputation, too easily imposed upon by 
men whose first aim was plunder, too ill a judge of character 
to fill with success a place of so great responsibility; that 
he lacked practical knowledge, and was wrongly advised 
all these things may be admitted; but, when all is said, he 
was not sordid, not the impostor his enemies declare him to 
have been." 

Sadder even than the tragedy of this unfortunate old man 
was the despair of the hundreds of loyal and courageous men 
engaged in the work. After eight years of struggle, and 
sometimes of doubt, they had come to feel that the opening 
of the Canal was assured. Bunau-Varilla writes: "The 
reasons for this great and fatal failure are numerous, but all 
of them, with hardly an exception, come from a common 
cause: the very nature of the problem faced by the art of 
the engineer made it impossible to state the problem with 


precision." When the French began work, they were daring 
out upon as unknown a sea as that which Columbus sailed. 
They had absolutely no precedents for their undertaking. 
No satisfactory survey existed; no one knew how many 
cubic yards would have to be moved; no one had any idea 
of the nature of the earth below the surface. Estimates 
of cost were crude guesses. No one knew definitely about the 
sanitary condition and probable frequency of epidemics. 
There were no reliable data in regard to rainfall one of the 
most important elements in making estimates in the tropics. 
No one had information in regard to where labor could be 
most cheaply recruited or what class of laborer would bear 
up best under the climate. After eight years of experimenta- 
tion all this was changed. There was no more guessing. 
Mathematical certainties had replaced all the original ig- 
norance. The men knew just what had to be done and 
how to do it. 

And now, with the problems solved, with a clear road 
ahead, the pirates of the Paris Bourse had cheated them out 
of their victory. Bunau-Varilla voices the outraged senti- 
ments of these men in the epilogue of his book "Panama, 
le Passe", le Present, TAvenir": 

"After having had the audacity to attempt to realize the 
dream of Columbus, after having expended such enormous 
sums of effort and money, after having, through these efforts, 
traveled two-thirds of the road, after having assembled and 
set to work a gigantic equipment, after having withstood 
all the tests and bought so dearly all the knowledge, broken 
all the resistances, triumphed over every obstacle, after 
having excavated nearly fifty million cubic meters under 
conditions at first difficult and obscure, are we going to 
abandon all of this, when there only remain forty millions 
of cubic meters to move under conditions well known and 


"Are we going to allow the belief to weigh down the 
coming generation that our country is no longer capable of 
anything but spasmodic energy, that the proud and power- 
ful force of continued effort is henceforth a stranger to us?" 

But the scandal had been too great to allow him or any 
one to revive the faith of the French nation. A receiver was 
appointed in the hope of rescuing something from the ruin. 
In order to keep alive the concession from Colombia a sem- 
blance of work was maintained by the reorganization. But 
nothing serious was accomplished. 

The devoted band of engineers scattered about the world 
on other jobs. Bunau-Varilla was one of the few who kept 
the faith. The dream of "the Straits of Panama" had bit 
deep into his imagination. When at last he was forced to 
give up hope in his own people, he turned to us, and this 
man, who had been a notable engineer, became a politician. 
He, more than any one else, kept the "Panama idea" alive. 
And, when the time came, he was active in the Panama 
Revolution which gave us the Canal Zone, and was the first 
diplomatic representative from the infant republic to Wash- 
ington. And in that capacity he signed the treaty which 
made the Canal a certainty. 

Our engineers have disagreed with him on several import- 
ant points, his soundness on technical points has been ques- 
tioned, and his publicity methods are often absurd. But no 
one denies that he was among the most successful of the 
French engineers and contractors thirty years ago, and that 
in his tireless devotion to a grand idea he has typified the 
spirit of his great and generous people. If there had been 
more men of his stamp and fewer speculators in the de 
Lesseps company, the French would have built the Canal. 



FROM the early days of the nineteenth century, when the 
Spanish yoke was thrown off, very little happened on the 
Isthmus which is of interest to outsiders until the middle of 
the century. 

It was a period of varied, and, to the inhabitants, exciting 
misrule. The Panamanians very quickly regretted the haste 
with which they had bound themselves to the South Amer- 
ican Federation of New Granada. The mountains which 
bound the Isthmus at the east cut them off from all land 
communication with Bogota, where as dizzy a kaleidoscope 
of constitutions, revolutions, dictators and presidents was 
going on as this hemisphere has ever seen. "The free and 
sovereign state of Panama" was popularly spoken of as 
"the milch cow of Bogota." All the adventurers who came 
out on top in the revolutions of the federation sent their 
particular friends to govern this free and sovereign state 
and recoup their fortunes. 

It is hardly possible to conceive of a history being written 
of such an epoch. It could only be fittingly treated by a 
great epic bard, like Homer. The more one digs into the 
early history of Latin-America, the stronger the analogy 
grows between it and ancient Greece. 

First of all, there is no great political principle at stake. 
The only issue which is fundamentally dear to the hearts of 
all Spanish-Americans is home rule. Our neighbors to the 
south have fought as gallantly, as desperately, as persis- 



tently and as devotedly for this ideal as have any people 
for any ideal; but that was won in their wars of indepen- 
dence. They claim also to be Republicans, but to one with 
the Anglo-Saxon tradition of democracy, that must seem 
lip-service. North of the equator I have not been south 
of it I have never found any trace of a vital democratic 
movement of the masses. They mean no more by "the 
Republic" than did the slave-owners of Athens or the mer- 
chant princes of Venice. It is only a small minority of the 
people who take any interest in politics. 

One cannot read Homer without feeling that the Rape of 
Helen was only a pretext for the Trojan war. The Grecian 
army undoubtedly marched in the hope of glory and booty. 
If the author of the Iliad had been a modern journalist in- 
stead of a blind poet, he would probably have seen more of 
the latter. And it looks to me as if these Latin- American 
wars had been inspired by the same spirit, a desire for pesos 
rather than patriotism. 

But one who is fond of stories of personal bravery can 
find no better reading than the records of the early days of 
Spanish-American independence. The comic opera side of 
these turmoils has been too often played up to us of the 
North, for these bare-footed, dark-skinned soldiers really 
know how to fight. It is a common occurrence for these revo- 
lutions to cost more lives than did our Spanish war. 

The dare-devil strain of bravery, which led Pizarro's little 
band to capture the Inca in the midst of the Peruvian army, 
has persisted in the race. There have been battles of 
Thermopylae a plenty, and men have passed down to the 
"shadowy kingdom" as gallantly as did Leonides of old. 

The record, it is true, has been blotted and smirched by 
cowardly treachery and dishonesty perhaps this strain also 
has peristed from the old days when Pizarro violated the 
laws of hospitality to win an empire. 


It is well, in reading such sorry pages, to remember that 
there are renegades among all people. Within the memory 
of many still living, a victorious revolutionist in one of 
these Latin-American countries celebrated his triumph by 
executing the former president. The dead man's wife sought 
refuge at the American consulate, with her children and 
jewels. The representative of our government charged her 
four hundred dollars a week board, and when it was time for 
her to leave, he could not remember where he had put her 

A close reading of Homer will convince one that all this 
is in accordance with the best Greek traditions. 

Such was the life of the Isthmus after the expulsion of the 
Spaniards. The great cause, home rule, had been won. 
The two-century-old traditions of wars and intrigues, of 
adventurous warriors who were gamblers with fate, per- 
sisted. There was only one way of acquiring wealth which 
was looked down upon that of humdrum industry. 

Things took a change on the Isthmus with the Californian 
gold rush of '49. The narrow neck of land was overrun with 
a new breed of men, as Homeric as the great ancestors of the 

The trip across the American desert was an immensely 
expensive and hazardous undertaking. Many gold hunters 
crossed Central America by the way of Nicaragua, but the 
Darien route, as it was called, was the most popular. 

From '49 on, the history of the Isthmus has been prin- 
cipally made by foreigners. It is true that the natives did 
not at once, in fact, have not yet entirely broken themselves 
of the old habits of revolutionary turmoil, but when the 
Isthmus came again into world prominence as a great traffic 
route, it was no longer possible for these disturbances to be 
allowed to run their course unchecked. The gold rush was 
the impetus which started the building of the Panama rail- 


road. A treaty between the United States and the Federa- 
tion of New Granada, by which we guaranteed to keep the 
Isthmus open for transit, was signed in 1846. It made us 
a directly interested party in every Panamanian uprising. 

However, our best efforts to keep the lid safely in place 
were not entirely successful. The following quotation from 
President Roosevelt's message of December 7, 1903, gives 
a summary of the political life of the Isthmus since the sign- 
ing of that treaty. Writing about the Panama Revolution 
of 1903 and our part in it, he said: 

"When these events happened, fifty-seven years had elapsed since 
the United States had entered into this treaty with New Granada. 
During that time the governments of New Granada and of its suc- 
cessor, Colombia, had been in a constant state of flux. The following 
is a partial list of the disturbances on the Isthmus of Panama during 
the period in question as reported to us by our consuls. It is not pos- 
sible to give a complete list, and some of the reports that speak of 
'revolutions' must mean unsuccessful revolutions: 

"May 22, 1850. Outbreak Two Americans killed; war vessel 
demanded to quell outbreak. 

"October, 1850. Revolutionary plot to bring about independence 
of the Isthmus. 

"July 22, 1851. Revolution in four southern provinces. 

" November 14, 1851. Outbreak at Chagres. Man r of-war requested 
for Chagres. 

"June 27, 1853. Insurrection at Bogota, and consequent disturb- 
ance on Isthmus. War vessel demanded. 

"May 23, 1854. Political disturbances; war vessel requested. 

"June 28, 1854. Attempted revolution. 

"October 24, 1854. Independence of the Isthmus declared by pro- 
vincial legislature. 

"April, 1856. Riot, and massacre of Americans. 

"May 4, 1856. Riot. 

"May 18, 1856. Riot. 

"October 2, 1856. Conflict between two native parties. United 
States forces landed. 

"December 18, 1858. Attempted secession of Panama. 


"April, 1859. Riots. 

"September, I860. Outbreak. 

"October 4, 1860. Landing of United States forces in consequence. 

"May 23, 1861. Intervention of the United States forces required 
by Intendente. 

"October 2, 1861. Insurrection and civil war. 

"April 4, 1862. Measures to prevent rebels crossing Isthmus. 

"June 13, 1862. Mosquera's troops refused admittance to Panama. 

"March, 1865. Revolution and United States troops landed. 

"August, 1865. Riots; unsuccessful attempt to invade Panama. 

"March, 1866. Unsuccessful revolution. 

"April, 1867. Attempt to overthrow the government. 

"August, 1867. Attempt at revolution. 

"July 5, 1868. Revolution; provisional government inaugurated. 

"August 29, 1868. Revolution; provisional government over- 

"April, 1871. Revolution; followed apparently by counter-revolu- 

"April, 1873. Revolution and civil war which lasted to October, 

"August, 1876. Civil war which lasted until April, 1877. 

"July, 1878. Rebellion. 

"December, 1878. Revolt. 

"April, 1879. Revolution. 

' ' June, 1 879 . Revolution . 

"March, 1883. Riot. 

"May, 1883. Riot. 

"June, 1884. Revolutionary attempt. 

"December, 1884. Revolutionary attempt. 

"January, 1885. Revolutionary disturbances. 

"March, 1885. Revolution. 

"April, 1887. Disturbances on Panama Railroad. 

"November, 1887. Disturbance on line of canal. 

"January, 1889. Riot. 

"January, 1895. Revolution which lasted until April. 

"March, 1895. Incendiary attempt. 

"October, 1899. Revolution. 

"February, 1900, to July, 1900. Revolution. 

"January, 1901. Revolution. 

"July, 1901. Revolutionary disturbances. 

"September, 1901. City of Colon taken by rebels. 


"March, 1902. Revolutionary disturbances. 
"July, 1902. Revolution. 

"The above is only a partial list of the revolutions, rebellions, in- 
surrections, riots, and other outbreaks that have occurred during the 
period in question; yet they number fifty-three for the last fifty-seven 
years. It will be noted that one of them lasted nearly three years 
before it was quelled; another for nearly a year. In short, the expe- 
rience of over half a century has shown Colombia to be utterly incapa- 
ble of keeping order on the Isthmus. Only the active interference of 
the United States has enabled her to preserve so much as a semblance 
of sovereignty. Had it not been for the exercise by the United States 
of the police power in her interest, her connection with the Isthmus 
would have been sundered long ago. In 1856, in 1860, in 1873, in 1885, 
in 1901, and again in 1902, sailors and marines from United States war- 
ships were forced to land in order to patrol the Isthmus, to protect life 
and property and to see that the transit across the Isthmus was kept 
open. In 1861, in 1862, in 1885, and in 1900, the Colombian govern- 
ment asked that the United States Government would land troops to 
protect its interests and maintain order on the Isthmus." 

Most of these revolutionary outbreaks were conducted 
under the name of either the Liberal or Conservative party. 

These parties had had their rise before the death of 
Bolivar. The Liberal party was descended from the ex- 
treme democrats who had from the first opposed the aristo- 
cratic tendency of the Liberator. Their program called for 
universal suffrage, the separation of the church and state, 
secular education, full autonomy of the provinces, and such 
an arrangement of finances that the largest proportion of the 
revenues would go to the provinces. 

In general, the Conservative party stood for the central- 
ized theory of government for which Bolivar had always 
fought, and in other details took the opposite position from 
the Liberals. They were, above all things, the party of the 

But these differences in principle were more often used 
as tools of some personal ambition, than as real motives of 


revolt. General Mosquera, who made a number of rapid 
entrances and exits from the executive mansion, was first a 
Conservative and later an extreme Liberal. When he be- 
came "supreme dictator" in 1861, he pushed the federalist 
principles of the Liberals beyond the extremest experiment 
in decentralization ever tried before. 

Mr. William L. Scruggs, in his "The Colombian and Vene- 
zuelan Republics," after describing the political turmoil of 
Ecuador, writes: 

"A similar condition of affairs existed in New Granada. 
Local and general revolutions chased each other in rapid 
succession, and constitutional changes were so frequent that 
it is difficult to even enumerate them in chronological order. 
Each of the nine provinces, or prefectures, was clothed with 
the name and dignity of a 'sovereign state/ and the mystery 
of the Trinity was outdone in ingenious devices to reconcile 
plural sovereignties with national unity. . . . Primary 
allegiance was due, not to the nation, but to the constituent 
state in which the citizen resided. Even allegiance to the 
particular state was hardly in the nature of an obligation; 
for back of the theory of state allegiance was the doctrine of 
individual or personal sovereignty. Every man eighteen 
years of age and upward was a sort of nondescript sovereign, 
floating about at random, governed by a higher law inherent 
in himself. . . . 

"During the thirty years intervening from 1830 to 1861, 
there were five successive constitutions, not one of which 
had ever been respected when it became an obstacle to the 
ambition of some military chieftain. 

"There were no two whole years of perpetual peace. 
. . . There was a revolution, local or general, on an 
average, about every eighteen months. In short, to adopt 
the incisive language of a distinguished Colombian scholar 
and statesman (Dr. Rafael Nunez, President of Colombia, in 


1883-4), 'The maintenance of public order was the excep- 
tion, and civil war the rule.'" 

The pendulum of revolution and counter-revolution swung 
back and forth from extreme centralization to extreme fed- 
eralism. And in almost all of these turmoils the Isthmus 
had to bear a share. 

The overthrow of Bolivar left the Liberals in control, and 
a constitution after their liking was adopted in 1832. In 
1840 the Isthmus revolted and maintained its independence 
for two years. In 1841, Pedro Alcantara Herran became 
president as a Conservative, and revised the constitution to 
his tastes. In '49, Lopez, a Liberal general, was elected, 
and a Conservative-Clerical revolution broke out. The next 
president, Jose Mana Obando, also a Liberal, found time 
to put a new crimp in the fundamental law. In 1854, the 
Clericalists insurged again. General Mosquera, who had left 
the Liberals to become the Conservative president after 
Herran, changed his label again and led the army which 
suppressed the Conservatives. In order to emphasize the 
federalist doctrines of the administration, the name of the 
country was changed to the " Granadine Confederation." 

The next president was named Marino Ospina (1857-61). 
He had been supposed to be a Clericalist, but he was no 
sooner inaugurated than he was pronounced a traitor by 
both parties, and found two revolutions on his hands, one 
half of the country up in arms for the Liberal cause, and the 
other half threatening Bogota under Conservative leaders. 
Mosquera fought on the Liberal side during most of this 
mix-up, and emerged, in 1861, as " Supreme Dictator." He 
called a constituent assembly, the members of which were 
not called " deputies" nor " representatives," but "pleni- 
potentiaries." They adopted the sixth constitution since 
1830. It arranged for the complete separation of the 
church and state, expelled the religious orders, confiscated 


church property, secularized the schools, made suffrage 
universal and abolished the death penalty. Again the name 
was changed to "The United States of Colombia." It was 
organized into a loose league of nine states. Only fifty per 
cent, of the revenues was to go to the central government. 
The spirit of the document is summed up in this clause : 

"When one sovereign state of the union shall be at war 
with another, or the citizens of any state shall be at war 
among themselves, the national government is obligated to 
preserve the strictest neutrality." 

This remarkable constitution was in force for nearly a 
quarter of a century. In 1886, the Conservatives again got 
into the saddle, changed the name to the Republic of Co- 
lombia, and in a new constitution expressly denied the sov- 
ereignty of the individual states. 

This political ferment has been costly beyond computa- 
tion. The wars of independence left the country $35,000,000 
in debt. Colombia is one of the richest countries, both in 
mineral and agricultural resources, of the New World. But 
far from paying off this debt, they have very rarely at- 
tempted to pay the interest. Industry has of course been 

It is practically impossible for a foreigner to get any 
definite and reliable information about these numerous out- 
breaks. The spirit of partisanism is so sharp that no native 
can give an objective and disinterested account of even his 
own activities. There is an immense amount of literature, 
especially in Spanish, dealing with one or another of these 
revolutions. The most comprehensive history is in French, 
by a student named Peirera. Out of the mass, I have 
selected this account from Bidwell's "The Isthmus of Pan- 
ama." He was an English gentleman who resided for many 
years in Panama, and personally witnessed the insurrection 
of 1862: 


"But to keep to Panama. The last political change took 
place in this wise. The legitimate governor, who had been 
duly elected in the manner before described, and who had 
held his office almost peaceably for nearly two years, found 
himself one fine day visited by about 150 soldiers from 
Cartagena, the capital of a friendly state in the hands of 
the Liberal party; for it must be remembered that New 
Granada's last revolution, which in its little way was as 
devastating as that of Mexico, was a struggle between two 
factions calling themselves 'Liberals' and 'Conservatives.' 
The governor then had been the Conservative candidate, 
when the Conservatives were in power throughout the coun- 
try. The Liberals had, however, been latterly gaining 
ground, and had gained some of the states, and the soldiers 
were apparently sent by the 'Liberal' party to assist the 
governor in carrying out certain decrees of that faction 
which he had resisted, and which, as the supreme authority 
in his own state, he had unquestionably the right to resist. 
On the arrival of the soldiers at Colon, the governor pro- 
tested both against the obnoxious decrees, and against the 
coming of the soldiers, as contrary to a treaty which he 
had made with an agent of the 'Liberal' party, and by 
which treaty he had hoped to keep Panama out of the revo- 
lution; but it was all in vain. The soldiers declared they 
would come whether or not; and as the governor had no 
force to resist them, he here judged prudence to be the better 
part of valor, and so gave his sanction for their crossing 
from Colon by railway; and on they came, pretending then, 
as they had at first pretended, to be entirely under the gov- 
ernor's authority! Matters went on thus quietly for a few 
weeks. The poor governor, however, soon found that he 
had become simply a tool in the hands of Captain Sword, 
so, in accordance with the law which had been previously 
made for an emergency, he removed the capital, himself, 


and his secretary to Santiago de Veraguas, a town some 
three days distant in the interior of the state, leaving his 
unwelcome troops behind him to do battle with the prefect. 
Then about eighty individuals, all of whom with but one 
exception were of the black population, assembled in the 
town hall, deposed the absent governor, and elected in his 
stead one of their own party, under the title of provisional 
governor. The two for a short time then reigned together, 
and shied decrees at each other, the one at Santiago, the 
other at Panama; but the provisional governor, having the 
soldiers to back him, soon found himself strong enough to 
arm and send a force into the interior to annihilate the 
legitimists, and here their chief, the first poor governor, paid 
the penalty of office and was cruelly shot in a mock field of 
battle, in which battle it appeared that he and one or two 
other persons were the only victims. The whole affair 
would have been a farce but for this tragical ending. But 
he whose life was so unnecessarily sacrificed was an intelli- 
gent, well-meaning, though perhaps weak young man, who 
had unfortunately had politics forced upon him. He was of 
one of the best and most respected families on the Isthmus, 
and he left a young widow and three small children to de- 
plore his loss. He had during his reign steadily endeavoured 
to develop the resources, agricultural and commercial, of his 
country. With his death died his political party in the 
State; the blacks reigned supreme; the obnoxious decrees 
were put in force; the poor old nuns were turned out of their 
convent, and afterwards their bishop left, or was banished. 
Forced loans were exacted from the 'Conservatives/ and 
poor Panama, in consequence of it all, goes down the polit- 
ical ladder some steps lower. This short relation of the 
facts, undisguised by the grandiloquent language of the 
despatches of the time, may give some idea of how 'con- 
servative' Panama became 'liberal' in the year 1862." 


W. F. Johnson, in his "Four Centuries of the Panama 
Canal," gives the following brief account of the last out- 
break of importance: 

"The year 1902 marked, moreover, the culmination of the 
latest of Colombia's many revolutionary movements. This 
widespread insurrection of the Liberal party against the 
oppressive Conservative and Clerical government had been 
maintained with varying success for several years, and early 
in 1902 it began to gather chiefly on and about the Isthmus. 
A new Governor of Panama, F. Mutis Duran, was ap- 
pointed by the Bogota Government in February. A few 
weeks later the danger of obstruction of commerce and 
travel over the Isthmus became so marked that the Ameri- 
can Government deemed it essential to send a naval force 
thither to protect the rights and interests of this country, 
according to the provisions of the Treaty of 1846. On 
March 8, an American vessel reached Colon and thereafter 
commanded the city with its guns, thus exercising a most 
salutary influence over the belligerents. Six months later 
the situation grew more serious at the southern side of the 
Isthmus, and accordingly on September 12 another Amer- 
ican vessel entered the harbour of Panama, and on Septem- 
ber 19, American marines were landed. This action was 
taken under an order of the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. 
Moody, which ran in part as follows: 

' The United States guarantees perfect neutrality of the Isthmus, 
and that a free transit from sea to sea be not interrupted or embar- 
rassed. . . . Any transportation of troops which might contravene 
provisions of treaty should not be sanctioned by you; nor should use 
of road be permitted which might convert the line of transit into a 
theatre of hostility.' 

" This order, sent on September 12, was reasonable and 
logical, and intended simply to maintain our fixed policy 


and to fulfil our treaty rights and obligations. Against it 
the Governor of Panama protested, but without effect. 
The American authorities persisted in their intervention, in 
which they were clearly within their rights under the treaty. 
Indeed they were doing no more than they had done several 
times before with Colombian approval. 

"Nor was the American intervention confined to a mere 
show of force. Actual force was exercised to prevent either 
of the belligerents from interfering with traffic over the rail- 
way, or from using the railway as an engine of war. Co- 
lombian troops were disarmed on September 22, and three 
days later insurgent troops were prevented from using the 
railroad and were actually compelled to leave a train which 
they had seized and entered. There was, of course, no inter- 
ference by Americans excepting to keep the railroad neutral 
and in peaceful operation. The principle was enunciated 
and maintained that no combatants under arms should be 
transported on the railroad, no matter to which party they 
belonged. That was because to permit such transportation 
would be to make the railroad an adjunct to that side in 
the war, and to subject it to attack by the other party. If 
the Colombian troops used the road, the insurgents would 
attack it, and the United States would either have to per- 
mit such attack, which might suspend the traffic on the 
road which this country was bound under the treaty to keep 
free and open, or to prevent it with force, which would make 
this country the ally of Colombia against the insurgents. 
If the insurgents were permitted to use it, the case would 
be, mutatis mutandis, precisely the same. The only logical 
and safe course was, then, that which was taken, to forbid 
the military use of the road by either party. This vigorous 
American policy had the desired effect. The road was kept 
open and undisturbed, and the belligerents, disappointed 
and discouraged in their efforts to involve the road, finally 


retired from that region, so that by November 19 it was 
deemed prudent to withdraw the United States forces." 

This revolution, of which Mr. Johnson describes a part, 
was the most disastrous of the civil wars which have kept 
Colombia an open sore. In 1899, the Liberals took up arms 
against the Conservative administration of Sanclemente, 
who had been elected in 1898. The fighting continued with 
a rigor unprecedented in modern times. Over two hundred 
battles were fought, and thirty thousand Colombians were 
killed. Four times between October, 1899, and September, 
1901, the Isthmus rose in revolt. Each one was mercilessly 
stamped out. But in 1902, the Liberals were able to muster 
again. At first they were successful. In the battle of 
Agua Dulce, west of Panama City, the insurgents won a 
decisive victory, capturing in the neighborhood of two 
thousand government troops. The Isthmus would prob- 
ably have conquered its independence at this time if it had 
not been for our intervention, as described in the quotation 
from Mr. Johnson. 

I have found it very hard to realize the devastation of these 
wars., We have been so accustomed to thinking of them as 
mere opera bouffe. It is a tradition among us that these 
South American armies consist of ten major-generals to one 
private; that they are armed with blunderbusses handed 
down from their conquistador ancestors, and that all they 
do is talk. In the province of Code, I have ridden into 
deserted villages, seen the charred ruins of many a hacienda, 
and more neglected farms than cultivated ones. When you 
ask about them, the people shrug their shoulders and say: 
"The revolution." It is a country of widows and orphans. 
No one can be neutral in a civil war. There have been 
seven years of uninterrupted peace since the secession, but 
the country is still understocked with farm animals. The 
people have not yet gotten free from the habit of thought 


which told them that their live stock would be stolen every 
few years by one army or the other. 

In one little inland town, a German trader told me how 
in 1901 the civil war had broken out there suddenly. There 
were few guns in the place, so the men took their machetes 
and went to Plaza and fought it out, brother against brother, 
hand to hand. By morning there were no more Conserva- 
tives in the town. The Liberals, crazed by the long fight 
and the blood, crucified the priest in front of the smoulder- 
ing ruins of the church. Almost every woman in the town 
had to wear mourning for a near relative. 

At home, I am an anti-imperialist. I had not approved 
of the high-handed way in which we had acquired practical 
sovereignty over the Isthmus. But the sight of so many 
ruined buildings, so many broken homes, the heritage of a 
century of civil war, makes one feel that peace at any price 
is not a bad bargain. Strong men may resent a Pax Romce, 
but it must be welcomed by the women folk and children. 



THE difficulty which one finds in unravelling the history 
of the earlier revolutions is even greater when it comes to the 
study of that of 1903, which resulted in the independence of 
the Isthmus. 

During the Spanish- American War a newspaper man went 
to the War Department in Washington and asked for in- 
formation about our plans of campaign. Of course such 
matters were secret, and it was explained to him that nothing 
could be given out for publication. 

"Well, I've got to have something," he said, "or I'll lose 
my job. I don't care whether it is true or not." 

"Son," the Secretary said, "you're in the wrong place. 
Go over to the State Department and consult a diplomat. 
We are paid to fight, not to lie." 

Most of the documents in regard to the Panama revolu- 
tion are of a diplomatic character. 

One of the most detailed accounts of this matter is con- 
tained in "Four Centuries of the Panama Canal," by Willis 
Fletcher Johnson. The volume is dedicated to the then 
Secretary of War, William H. Taft, and is marked through- 
out with the stamp of official sanction. If one reads Mr. 
Johnson's book, understanding that everything he wrote 
was pleasing to the Administration, and discounting it from 
this point of view, one gets a fair idea of the facts. 

It is necessary to go back a considerable distance into the 
history of our diplomatic relations with Colombia, or as it 



was formerly called, New Granada, to understand this 

The Mexican War had given us a long Pacific seaboard, 
the value of which very few realized before the discovery of 
gold. England was following a very aggressive policy in 
Honduras and the feeling that we could enforce the Monroe 
Doctrine was by no means universal. Almost everyone 
expected more efforts on the part of European Powers to 
gain a foothold on the continent. The more far-sighted of 
our statesmen foresaw something of the future development 
of our West and realized the necessity of having an assured 
means of communication. 

In 1846 we entered into a treaty with the Federation of 
New Granada, by which "the government of New Granada 
guarantees to the government of the United States that the 
right of way or transit across the Isthmus of Panama, 
upon any modes of communication that now exist or that 
may be hereafter constructed, shall be open and free to the 
government and citizens of the United States. . . And in 
order to . secure to themselves the tranquil and constant 
enjoyment of these advantages, and as an especial compensa- 
tion for the said advantages, and for the favors they have 
acquired by the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles of this treaty, 
the United States guarantee positively and efficaciously to 
New Granada, by the present stipulation, the perfect neutral- 
ity of the before-mentioned Isthmus, with the view that the 
free transit from the one to the other sea may not be inter- 
rupted or embarrassed in any future time while this treaty 
exists; and, in consequence, the United States also guar- 
antee, in the same manner, the rights of sovereignty and 
property which New Granada has and possesses over the 
said territory." 

Our government interpreted this treaty as imposing upon 
it a duty to keep transportation uninterrupted across the 


Isthmus, even if it was necessary to intervene with force. 
As Mr. Roosevelt points out in his message quoted in the 
preceding chapter, the United States of Colombia interpreted 
the treaty in the same sense, and on several occasions re- 
quested our government to land forces on the Isthmus to 
preserve order. 

Our government had for a great many years considered the 
advisability of building a canal between the two oceans. 
At first, the route via Nicaragua was the more popular. 
Several companies had been formed, with the encouragement 
of the government, and extensive diplomatic intercourse had 
been carried on on this subject. For one reason or another, 
the various private companies came to grief, and when the 
French company received a concession from the United 
States of Colombia to attempt the Panama route, our gov- 
ernment ceased its activities in the matter. 

However, after the failure of the French company, many 
Americans took up the subject and tried to enlist the activity 
of the government. A fresh impetus was given to the canal 
scheme by the Spanish-American War, and especially by 
the long cruise of the Oregon from the Californian coast to 
the Atlantic; and Congress finally authorized the building 
of a canal, giving discretionary power to the president to 
decide whether it should be the Nicaraguan or the Panama 
route. There was, at first, a sincere difference of opinion 
among engineers as to which route was the more feasible, 
but gradually the consensus of opinion favored Panama. 
The existence of the Panama railroad along the route of 
the proposed canal was a great advantage; also the work 
which had been accomplished by the French company could 
be utilized effectively. The Walker Commission made a 
careful study of both routes, and reported that if our govern- 
ment was able to acquire the rights and property of the new 
French company for not more than forty million dollars, 


the Panama route would be the more desirable, but as the 
new French company valued their property at a very much 
higher figure, this Commission recommended the Nicaraguan 

A great deal of discussion has been stirred up by this 
valuation made by the Walker Commission. The work done 
by the French had cost them infinitely more than forty 
millions of dollars, and they claimed that this sum was dis- 
honestly low. On the other hand, it has often been asserted 
by enemies of Mr. Roosevelt's administration that forty 
millions was an excessively high figure. During the month 
of June, 1911, a committee which has been investigating 
the matter on the spot has reported that we could not have 
duplicated the part of the French work which we have used, 
including surveys and buildings as well as actual excavation, 
for less than forty-two millions. 

After the failure of de Lesseps, the French Government 
appointed a receiver, who organized the "New French Canal 
Company." They had done enough work to keep the con- 
cession alive. Their only hope of realizing anything on their 
stock was that some other corporation or some country, 
financially stronger, might undertake the completion of their 
work and buy them out. If, in this crisis, the United States 
should decide to build a canal by the Nicaraguan route, 
there would be no possibility of saving the interests of those 
who held the paper of the French Panama Company. 

The stock of the company fluctuated wildly during those 
days as the intention of our government turned now to 
Nicaragua, now to Panama. As soon as the Walker Report 
was published, the directors of "The New French Company" 
saw that their only chance of realizing anything was to accept 
the forty million dollar valuation of their property, although 
they felt that it was an unjustly low estimate. If they 
refused to accept it, the American canal would be built 


via Nicaragua and their stock would not be worth forty 

Their offer to sell out at this figure forced the Admin- 
istration, on the basis of the Walker report, to consider the 
Panama route the more advantageous. Negotiations were 
at once started with the Colombian government to acquire 
Panama rights. 

In December, 1902, the Colombian government sent Dr. 
Thomas Herran to Washington as charge" d'affaires. Dr. 
Herran was known to be favorable to the project of an 
American canal at Panama, and he at once began work 
with Secretary Hay towards drafting the necessary treaty. 

On January 22, 1903, the convention known as the Hay- 
Herran treaty was signed. It was agreed that Colombia 
was to allow the new Panama Canal Company to sell all its 
rights and privileges and properties, including the Panama 
railroad, to the United States Government. We were to 
have perpetual administrative control of a strip of land 
thirty miles wide extending across the Isthmus. However, 
the sovereignty of the Zone was to remain with Colombia. 
There was to be a complicated system of justice, one set of 
Colombian courts with jurisdiction over disputes between 
Colombians, an American court, with jurisdiction in cases 
involving two Americans, and a third court, composed of 
American and Colombian jurists, to settle litigation between 
Americans and Colombians. In return for these privileges, 
we were to pay Colombia ten millions of cash, and a hundred 
thousand a year rental, to begin nine years after the ratifica- 
tion of the treaty. 

On March 17, 1903, the treaty was ratified by the United 
States Senate. But it came to grief at Bogota. The political 
pirates of that capital, headed by the de facto president, 
Dr. Marroquin, seemed to feel that we were committed to 
the Panama route, and would be willing to stand for any 


amount of blackmail rather than to change back to Nica- 
ragua. The diplomatic negotiations that followed are cloudy 
in the extreme. Those papers which have been published by 
the government of Bogota are a rather weak effort to show 
that that government was only trying to protect the inter- 
ests of its people. The papers published by our government 
furnished decidedly strong evidence of a deliberate hold-up 

Things drifted along several months, with repeated 
requests from Colombia that we should increase our offer. 
Eventually, Secretary Hay communicated to the Colombian 
foreign minister the following dispatch: 

"The Colombian government apparently does not appre- 
ciate the gravity of the situation. The canal negotiations 
were initiated by Colombia, and were energetically pressed 
upon this government for several years. The propositions 
presented by Colombia, with slight modifications, were finally 
accepted by us. In virtue of this agreement, our Congress 
reversed its previous judgment and decided upon the Panama 
route. If Colombia should now reject the treaty or unduly 
delay its ratification, the friendly understanding between 
the two countries would be so seriously compromised that 
action might be taken by Congress next winter which every 
friend of Colombia would regret." 

This little hint, however, fell upon deaf ears in Bogota. 
The Congress which should have ratified the treaty met on 
June 20, 1903. On August 12th, the Colombian Senate 
rejected the treaty. Mr. Johnson says that: 

"On September 8, 1903, the Colombian government 'con- 
fidentially' informed the Washington State Department that 
despite its rejection of the proposal for further negotiations, 
it intended to propose a reopening of negotiations, upon 
bases which it judged would be acceptable 'to the Congress 
of next July.' That is to say, the Hay-Herran treaty was 


to be killed, and then Colombia would ask for the negotia- 
tion of a new treaty which would be acceptable to a new 
Congress the next year! This characteristic bit of jugglery 
did not meet with favor at Washington." 

During these diplomatic delays, there was wild anxiety 
among the shareholders of the French Canal Company in 
Paris. If our government could not negotiate a satisfactory 
treaty with Colombia, it would be forced to dig the canal 
by way of Nicaragua, and the shares of the French company 
would not be worth the paper they were written on. 

Another important element in the situation was the atti- 
tude of the merchants and business men of the Isthmus. 
During the years of the French company's activity, they had 
reaped a rich harvest. The large force of imported labor 
necessary to build the canal had meant a great revival of 
business activity. They also were immensely worried at 
the prospect of the Bogota government driving us in despera- 
tion to the Nicaraguan route. 

Our own government was also in an embarrassing situation. 
As long as there was competition between the two govern- 
ments, Nicaragua and Colombia, as to which route we would 
choose, the government of Nicaragua was offering us very 
favorable privileges. If, however, the Bogota government 
rejected the treaty, and we were forced to turn to Nicaragua, 
there was no guarantee that Zelaya, the dictator of Nica- 
ragua, might not hold us up as blithely as the Colombian 

At this stage of the game, the Panama revolution "hap- 
pened." Just how it happened will probably never be known. 

It must be borne in mind that, as Mr. Roosevelt pointed 
out, there had been fifty-three revolutions in fifty-seven years. 
The history of Latin-America also shows that a great num- 
ber of such insurrectional movements had been financed and 
inspired by foreign capitalists. The merchants of Panama, 


the holders of the stock in the French company, had a 
direct financial interest in bringing about a revolution which 
would insure the digging of the Panama Canal. The people 
of Panama had no love for the Colombian government, and 
would have revolted many times before if our government 
had not stepped in to suppress their rebellions. 

All this time the talk of a revolution was widespread. As 
far as the Panamanians were concerned there was little 
secret conspiring. When the treaty first came up in the 
Colombian Senate, threats were received at Bogota that if 
the treaty was thrown out the Isthmus would revolt. 
M. Bunau-Varilla, for a long time associated with the 
French company, and Mr. William Nelson Cromwell, its 
legal advisor, were pulling the necessary wires. And it 
is certain that [if the French company was trying to fo- 
ment an insurrection it was now their only hope they 
found the natives of the Isthmus more than ready to 
listen to sedition. 

First of all there were the native merchants; the coming 
of Americans and American money to the Isthmus meant 
wealth for them. If the canal was dug in Nicaragua even 
the Panama railroad would stagnate. Panama would no 
longer be printed in commercial guides. Another revolution- 
ary element was the group of local politicians. Any one 
familiar with the politics of Latin-America will at once see 
their point of view. Ten million dollars! If the United 
States was willing to pay that sum for a Canal Zone, why 
should not they have the spending of it, instead of the gang 
at Bogota, or Zelaya. 

Only one thing stood in the way of a revolution the same 
thing which a dozen times before had prevented it. There 
was the clause in the treaty between the United States and 
Colombia in which for certain specified " values received," 
"the United States also guarantee, in the same manner, the 


rights of sovereignty and property which New Granada has 
and possesses over the said territory." 

In 1846 our State Department had guaranteed to defend 
Colombia's property rights in the Isthmus; several times 
we had actually intervened by force to do so. Would we do 
so again? Or had the recent developments changed the 
heart of our government in the matter? This was the crux 
of the whole affair. 

Those who have claimed that Mr. Roosevelt's administra- 
tion provoked and instigated a revolution in Panama are 
aside from the point. At least for our administration to 
have done so would have been foolish in the extreme. There 
was no provoking nor instigating necessary. Our government 
has officially denied this charge, and I find no reason to 
doubt their truth in doing so. 

The real question is in regard to the violation of the treaty 
with Colombia. Had Colombia's blackmailing effort jus- 
tified our sudden change in front in the matter, our sudden 
neglect of a treaty obligation we had previously acknowl- 
edged? The answer is a matter of opinion. I am inclined 
to think we were justified. But most of us would feel better 
about it, I think, if our government would accept the invita- 
tion of Colombia to submit the matter to The Hague Tribunal. 

The Panamanians were uncertain about how we would 
act in the matter, and the revolutionary Junta which was 
composed of the most prominent citizens of Panama and 
Colon sent Dr. Amador to New York to find out. On 
arrival he went first to the office of Mr. Cromwell, the 
counsel for the French company. On leaving, he cabled to 
his friends the word " Desanimado," which, if it was not a 
code-word, would mean "discouraged." Later he visited 
other friends and eventually met Bunau-Varilla, who had 
"providentially" arrived from France that very day. He 
then cabled the word " Esperanzas," "hopes." 


Shortly afterwards he went to Washington and was 
closeted with the then Secretary of State, Hay. Again I 
will quote from Johnson, whose sources of information seem 
to have been august: 

"The replies given by Mr. Hay were diplomatically dis- 
creet and guarded. He told Dr. Amador that, however much 
the United States might sympathize with Panaman aspira- 
tions for liberty and independence, and however much it 
might regret or even resent Colombia's rejection of the canal 
treaty, it would be manifestly impossible for this Government 
to give any aid to a revolutionary enterprise, or to commit 
itself with any promises in advance. It would scrupulously 
fulfil its duties as a neutral, and would inflexibly maintain 
its rights and privileges under the Treaty of 1846 with New 
Granada. Those rights and privileges included the pro- 
tection of free neutral transit across the Isthmus, and the 
guarantee of the sovereignty of land against alien aggression, 
though, of course, it did not guarantee Colombian possession 
of the Isthmus against local and domestic revolution. But the 
United States could give no promises to, and make no treaties 
with, a government which was not yet in existence. " 

I have underlined the portion of this account of Mr. 
Johnson which has the most significance. If Secretary Hay 
is correctly quoted, he here laid down an entirely new inter- 
pretation of the treaty. That the United States, a nation 
founded by a revolution, should have entered into a treaty 
with Colombia which bound it to suppress revolutions on 
the Isthmus, was a disgrace. But it had done so back in 
1846, and for more than half a century had recognized this 
treaty obligation and had from time to time actually landed 
troops and suppressed revolutions. 

Dr. Amador left the State Department with a light heart. 
And the revolution "happened." 

It was accomplished without bloodshed. American war- 


ships appeared to see that the first part of the treaty was 
enforced the maintenance of free transit. The Dixie, 
Nashville, Atlanta, Maine, and Mayflower were at Colon. 
The Boston, Marblehead, Concord, and Wyoming were at 

On November 2d the following dispatch was sent from the 
Navy Department to the Nashville and Dixie: 

"Maintain free and uninterrupted transit. If interruption 
is threatened by armed force, occupy line of railroad. Pre- 
vent landing of any armed force with hostile intent, either 
government or insurgent, either at Colon, Porto Bello, or 
other points." 

As the insurgents had no navy by means of which it was 
possible for them to land an armed force anywhere it was 
hardly necessary to mention them in the dispatch. 

An army of four hundred odd Colombian soldiers had been 
sent out at the last moment and arrived at Colon on the 
3d of November. As the revolution had not yet broken out, 
the commander of the Nashville could not intervene, and 
they were allowed to land. The generals very foolishly went 
over to Panama ahead of their army. The officials of the 
Panama railroad refused to transport the troops. So the 
Colombian generals were easily disarmed, the republic pro- 
claimed on November 4th. Three days later our government 
recognized the new republic. 

Of course the "statesmen" of Bogota had expected us to 
live up to our treaty and were vastly dismayed when they 
found we had recognized Panama. They had surely killed 
the goose which they had counted on for many a golden egg. 

A dispatch was received at Washington which practically 
promised that if we would put down the Isthmian revolution, 
the next Colombian Congress would ratify the Hay-Herran 
Treaty. Mr. Roosevelt refers to this in his message of 
December 7, 1903. The "eminent Colombian" whose name 


Mr. Roosevelt discreetly conceals is generally supposed to 
have been very close to the acting president, Dr. Marro- 

"Knowing that revolution has already commenced in 
Panama (an eminent Colombian) says that if the government 
of the United States will land troops to preserve Colombian 
sovereignty, and the transit, if requested by Colombian 
charge* d'affaires, this government will declare martial law; 
and, by virtue of vested constitutional authority, when public 
order is disturbed, will approve by decree the ratification of 
the canal treaty as signed; or, if the government of the 
United States prefers, will call extra session of the Congress 
with new and friendly members next May to approve 
the treaty. (An eminent Colombian) has the perfect con- 
fidence of Vice-President, he says, and if it become necessary 
will go to the Isthmus or send representative there to adjust 
matters along above lines to the satisfaction of the people 

"This despatch is noteworthy from two standpoints. Its 
offer of immediately guaranteeing the treaty to us is in sharp 
contrast with the positive and contemptuous refusal of the 
Congress which had just closed its sessions to consider favor- 
ably such a treaty; it shows that the government which 
made the treaty really had absolute control over the situa- 
tion, but did not choose to exercise this control. The des- 
patch further calls on us to restore order and secure Colom- 
bian supremacy in the Isthmus, from which the Colombian 
government has just by its action decided to bar us by 
preventing the construction of the canal." 

The question at issue in this whole matter is not of having 
fomented a revolution, but of having permitted it. That we 
suddenly changed our interpretation of a long-standing 
treaty seems evident. 

Once more I will quote from President Roosevelt's message 


of December 7, 1903. It sums up concisely and eloquently 
the reasons which impelled his administration to do as it did. 

"First: That the United States has for over half a century 
patiently and in good faith carried out its obligations under 
the Treaty of 1846. 

"Second: That when for the first time it became possible 
for Colombia to do anything in requital of the services thus 
repeatedly rendered to it for fifty-seven years by the United 
States, the Colombian Government peremptorily and offens- 
ively refused to do its part, even though to do so would have 
been to its advantage and immeasurably to the advantage 
of the State of Panama, at that time under its jurisdiction. 

"Third: That throughout this period revolutions, riots, 
and factional disturbances of every kind have occurred one 
after the other in almost uninterrupted succession, some of 
them lasting for months and even for years, while the central 
government was unable to put them down or to make peace 
with the rebels. 

"Fourth: That these disturbances, instead of showing 
any sign of abating, have tended to grow more numerous 
and more serious in the immediate past. 

"Fifth: That the control of Colombia over the Isthmus 
of Panama could not be maintained without the armed 
intervention and assistance of the United States. 

"In other words, the government of Colombia, though 
wholly unable to maintain order on the Isthmus, has never- 
theless declined to ratify a treaty the conclusion of which 
opened the only chance to secure its own stability and to 
guarantee permanent peace on and the construction of a 
canal across the Isthmus. 

"Under such circumstances the Government of the United 
States would have been guilty of folly and weakness amount- 
ing in their sum to a crime against the nation had it acted 
otherwise than it did when the revolution of November 3 


last took place in Panama. This great enterprise of building 
the mteroeeanic canal cannot be held up to gratify the whims, 
or out of respect to the government impotence, or to the 
even more sinister and evil political peculiarities, of people 
who, though they dwell afar off, yet, against the wish of 
the actual dwellers on the Isthmus, assert an unreal supremacy 
over the territory. The possession of a territory fraught 
with such peculiar capacities as the Isthmus in question 
carries with it obligations to mankind. The course of events 
has shown that this canal cannot be built by private enter- 
prise, or by any other nation than our own, therefore it 
must be built by the United States. 

"Every effort has been made by the Government of the 
United States to persuade Colombia to follow a course which 
was essentially not only to our interests and to the interests 
of the world, but to the interests of Colombia itself. These 
efforts have failed, and Colombia, by her persistence in 
repulsing the advances that have been made, has forced us, 
for the sake of our own honor, and of the interest and well- 
being, not merely of our own people, but of the people of the 
Isthmus of Panama and the people of the civilized countries 
of the world, to take decisive steps to bring to an end a 
condition of affairs which had become intolerable. The new 
republic of Panama immediately offered to negotiate a 
treaty with us. By it our interests are better safeguarded 
than in the treaty with Colombia, which was ratified by the 
Senate at its last session. It is better in its terms than the 
treaties offered to us by the republics of Nicaragua and Costa 
Rica. At last the right to begin this great undertaking is 
made available. Panama has done her part. All that re- 
mains is for the American Congress to do its part, and forth- 
with this republic will enter upon the execution of a project 
colossal in its size and of well-nigh incalculable possibilities 
for the good of this country and the nations of mankind." 



M. BUNAU-VARILLA was appointed the first Minister to 
the United States by the new Republic of Panama. Novem- 
ber 18, 1903, fifteen days after the revolution, he signed with 
Secretary Hay the "Panama Canal Convention." Three 
months later it' was ratified by our Senate the Panama 
Provisional Government had accepted it immediately and 
on February 26th, 1904, it was officially proclaimed. 

By this Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty we guaranteed to 
"maintain the independence of the Republic of Panama" 
and to pay into its treasury $10,000,000, and, beginning nine 
years after that date, to pay an annual rental of $250,000. 
In return for this we got all we wanted a Zone ten miles 
wide over which we have "the rights, power and authority 
. . . which the United States would possess and exercise 
if it were the sovereign of the territory ... to the 
entire exclusion of the exercise by the Republic of Panama of 
any such sovereign rights, power or authority." 

Article II, after defining the Canal Zone, gives us this 
blanket provision: "The Republic of Panama further grants 
to the United States in perpetuity the use, occupation and 
control of any other lands and waters outside of the Zone 
above described which may be necessary and convenient 
for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation and 
protection of said Canal." Whenever it becomes convenient 
we may absorb the whole Isthmus. 

A great deal of criticism has been directed against this 
treaty. As a matter of fact the provisional government of 



the "Republic" was the same group of men who had earlier 
called themselves the Revolutionary Junta. Their position 
was too precarious to allow them to oppose any request our 
government made. Much of this criticism, which is of course 
regrettable, would have been avoided if we had shown a 
little more deliberation and had allowed the regularly insti- 
tuted National Constitutional Convention which convened in 
Panama in January, 1904, to discuss the treaty, instead of 
having accepted the ratification of the provisional govern- 

The National Assembly, when it came together for the 
first time, found that the republic it was elected to govern 
had already been handed over as a protectorate to another 
nation much too strong to be resisted and this without any 
sort of a democratic sanction. 

There is no doubt that the National Assembly would have 
ratified the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty. It is decidedly to 
the advantage of the toy republic to be a protectorate. But 
there would be less of the almost universal hatred towards 
the Gringos if the people of Panama had been allowed to 
sell their own country rather than waking up suddenly to 
find themselves already sold. 

Six days after the Treaty had been proclaimed, President 
Roosevelt, under the authority of the Spooner Bill, ap- 
pointed an Isthmian Canal Commission of seven men, who 
were confirmed by the Senate on March 3d. This first 
Commission consisted of George W. Davis, a retired Major- 
General; William B. Parsons, who had just completed the 
New York subway; William H. Burr, a professor of civil 
engineering in Colombia; Benjamin M. Harrod, a well-known 
civil engineer of New Orleans; Carl E. Grunsky, and Frank 
T. Hecker, also civil engineers, from San Francisco and 
Detroit, respectively. Rear-Admiral John G. Walker, re- 
tired, who had been a member of previous commissions to 


investigate the canal project, was appointed chairman of 
the Commission. 

General Davis was appointed Civil Governor of the Canal 
Zone; he reached the Isthmus on the 17th of May. Two days 
later he posted a proclamation that the United States had 
assumed control of the Canal Zone. His manners, which 
had the proverbial military brusqueness, proved offensive 
to the Panamanians. They had arranged quite an elaborate 
ceremonial for the occasion. The simple pasting up of a 
formal poster did not seem to them sufficiently grandiose. 
They protested to Washington through diplomatic channels, 
and Governor Davis was instructed to attend the banquets 
they had planned. With the exception of Colonel Gorgas, 
almost all of our official representatives on the Isthmus 
have shown a positive genius for offending the delicate sen- 
sibilities of the natives. 

Four engineering parties were at once organized, one to 
survey the Colon terminus, and the other three to investigate 
the various dam-sites. It must be remembered that an 
immense amount of work had already been done by the 
French. The new company, which had been organized after 
the de Lesseps failure, had kept up enough activity to 
preserve their franchise and somewhat more than five 
hundred men were actually engaged in excavation at Culebra 
they had already cut down to within 150 feet of sea-level 
when we took possession. Major Black, of the Army Engi- 
neers, was put in charge of this work, as it was desirable to 
keep together this nucleus of a labor force. 

On June 1st, Mr. John Findley Wallace was appointed 
chief engineer. He was fifty-two years old and undoubtedly 
one of the most eminent civil engineers in the country. 
Although a New Englander by birth, he had grown up in 
the West. For several years he had been general manager 
of the Illinois Central Railroad. 


As soon as he arrived on the Isthmus he commenced the 
great work of organization. It is generally admitted that 
the first steps are the most difficult; this was doubly true 
of such an enterprise. To one who visits the Isthmus now, 
it is hard to realize what it was when these pioneers arrived. 
A narrow canon not fifteen feet wide stretched through the 
Jungle from Colon to Panama the right of way of the rail- 
road. On either side the dense vegetation crowded forward 
and was kept back only by constant machete work. Invis- 
ible back in the jungle our men knew that there were 
houses built by the French, great stores of machinery, rails 
and locomotives. But how far the houses were rotted, the 
iron and steel had rusted, nobody knew. There was a stag- 
nant, narrow ditch the old French Canal running in from 
Colon to the Gatun Hills. How deep it had been at first, 
how much it had filled up, nobody knew. Panama and Colon 
were pest holes. To be sure we had cleaned up Havana 
and Manila, but how long it would take to eradicate yellow 
fever from the Zone nobody knew. Here was a great mass 
of French maps, soundings, records of rainfall, etc. But the 
French had failed; nobody knew how far their documents 
could be trusted. 

Into this mass of uncertainties Mr. Wallace was sent. 
Within six months he had begun to bring some order out of 
the chaos. As yet we had not decided upon the type or exact 
route of the canal. But in any event much work would have 
to be done at Culebra. Wallace brought the force by Janu- 
ary 1, 1905, up to twelve hundred. He had two of the old 
French excavators and two American steam shovels at work 
in the Cut, and was getting valuable information about the 
unit costs of excavation in the tropics. He had also placed 
orders for a dozen more steam shovels. 

From the very first Mr. Wallace tried to satisfy the "im- 
patient and undue anxiety of the American people to see 


'dirt fly' " this expression I have quoted from an article 
by him in the Engineering Magazine. But while concentrating 
the labor force in Culebra Cut by July 1, 1905, he had 
10,000 men at work there he did as much as he could to 
accomplish the more necessary preliminary work. 

A careful investigation was made as to the amount and 
condition of equipment and supplies left by the French. 
Elaborate and very necessary surveys were made, to check 
up the French plans and much original work was done in 
gathering information on which to base a decision on the 
much discussed question of sea-level or locks. 

Of even more importance, as Mr. Wallace clearly recog- 
nized, was the work of sanitation. Colonel Gorgas, who had 
been health officer of Havana, came to the Isthmus at the 
same time as did Wallace. They gave careful study to the 
problem and began at once the work of cleaning up Colon 
and Panama. 

In all his undertakings Mr. Wallace was immensely 
hampered by red-tape and official delay. The first Com- 
mission seems to have been principally actuated by a deter- 
mination that no money should be wasted. They seemed 
more anxious to avoid the financial scandal which had ruined 
the de Lesseps company than to build a canal. Almost 
every requisition was held up. 

A typical, but by no means extreme, example is furnished 
by the delay of the water supply for Panama. Yellow fever 
mosquitoes find an ideal breeding place in the great earthen 
jars in which the Latin- Americans are wont to store drinking 
water. These " artificial containers" have to be eliminated 
if yellow fever is to be extirpated. Colonel Gorgas had made 
plans for furnishing running water to Panama. The plans 
for the Rio Grande reservoir were submitted by Mr. Wallace 
to the Commission on August 9, 1904, and approved. The 
chief engineer, realizing the immense importance of this, 


pushed the work of construction with great energy, only to 
be held up nine months because the iron water mains did 
not arrive. It was not until July, 1905, that water was 
turned on in Panama. The actual construction work could 
have been accomplished in three months; it had taken 
almost a year! And of course this also delayed the laying 
of sewers and the paving of the streets. And when, exas- 
perated by this delay, Wallace telegraphed to the Commis- 
sion, he was warned not to waste money cabling! 

The following quotation from Johnson's "Four Centuries 
of the Panama Canal" is a fair picture of the thing our first 
canal diggers had to face: 

"The members of the Commission spent little time at 
Panama. Their office was at Washington, and there they 
transacted their business. Requisitions for supplies, even 
for things urgently needed in the hospitals and by the 
sanitary squad, in cases where every hour was precious, had 
to be sent to Washington, deliberated upon by the Com- 
missioners, approved or rejected with little or no knowledge 
of the circumstances, and then, if approved, advertised, 
awarded, and finally filled weeks or months after date. In 
such fashion it took several months to get an X-ray appar- 
atus for the Ancon hospital. It took many weeks to get 
mosquito-netting for the windows of the canal office building, 
and then not enough was supplied; and in the meantime 
some of the most valuable men of the staff were prostrated 
by the bites of malarial mosquitoes. The chief sanitary 
officer wanted netting for all the official buildings in the Canal 
Zone. This request was refused as extravagant and unnec- 
essary. Then he asked for at least enough to inclose the 
verandas of the hospitals. This, too, was refused, and he 
was told that there was no need of inclosing more than half 
the verandas, and that even then a part of the space should 
be solidly boarded up instead of screened!" 


Mr. Roosevelt was not slow to recognize how unsatisfac- 
torily the Commission was working. In his message of Jan- 
uary 13, 1905, he asked Congress for authority to form a 
Commission of three members. The House passed a bill 
such as the President desired, but the Senate refused to act. 
Mr. Roosevelt, as was ever his wont, decided that if he could 
not get what he wanted in one way, to try another. He 
forced the Commission to resign, and on April 1st appointed 
a new one. This second Commission consisted of Theodore 
P. Shonts, chairman; John F. Wallace, chief engineer; and 
Charles E. Magoon, civil governor of the Zone, and four 
others. The others were Rear-Admiral Endicott, Brigadier- 
General Hains, Colonel Ernst, and Harrold, who had been 
a member of the first Commission. These four were all 
able engineers, but under the rules drawn up for the Com- 
mission by the President, everything had been put in the 
hands of the executive committee, composed of Shonts, 
Wallace, and Magoon. The same set of rules required two 
of the executive committee to reside in the Isthmus a great 
improvement and also authorized it to make purchases of 
less than a thousand dollars without advertising for bids. 
It was as satisfactory an arrangement as could be made 
without the new legislation which the Senate had refused to 
grant. Various bills, legalizing this distortion of the existing 
law, have been continually before Congress and none of 
them have been passed. The canal is being built by admin- 
istrative evasion. It could not be done otherwise. Which 
is a rather distressing commentary on the brains of our 

In much the same way the President solved the difficult 
question of whether or not the Commission should be com- 
pelled to buy its equipment in the home markets. Congress 
refused to legislate, and an executive order authorized the 
purchase of material without any such restriction. This 


seems to be a violation in principle of our tariff laws, and 
has proved so eminently wise in the canal work that we can 
not but wish that Mr. Roosevelt had made his order broad 
enough to include the home land as well. In the same vein 
the Administration decreed that our immigration laws did 
not cover the Zone, and foreign contract labor was admitted. 

At about the same time Mr. Roosevelt called a council of 
eminent engineers to discuss and if possible settle the ques- 
tion of whether the canal should be dug to sea-level or the 
lock system adopted. 

At this juncture everything was thrown into confusion by 
the unexpected resignation of Mr. Wallace. 

Very few recent events have caused such passionate dis- 
cussion as this action, and hardly any are more shrouded in 
mystery. Certainly Mr. Wallace had had no end of trouble 
with the first Commission. But the reorganization had been 
made practically on his dictation and he had expressed his 
satisfaction not only with the other members of the new 
Commission, but also of his position on it. His salary was 
$25,000 a year, and the administration at Washington 
thought that he was entirely contented. Certainly his 
resignation came at a most unfortunate time, before the 
second Commission had become organized and just on the 
eve of the meeting of the Board of Consulting Engineers. 

What caused Mr. Wallace to ask for his release is uncer- 
tain. Some say the offer of a better salary. Some say he 
or his family on his behalf was afraid of the yellow fever. 
There is also a story of a personal quarrel with Shonts. The 
attitude of the administration is shown in these excerpts 
from a letter written by the Secretary of War, Mr. Taft: 

"I am inexpressibly disappointed, not only because you 
have taken this step, but because you seem so utterly insen- 
sible of the significance of your conduct. You come with 
the bald announcement that you quit your task at a critical 


moment, on the eve of important work and in the midst of 
reorganization plans under which you accepted your position, 
with your department unperfected in organization. . . . 
You were consulted in the frankest manner about every 
feature of the reorganization and were encouraged freely to 
express your opinions. Indeed, your voluntary suggestions 
from the Isthmus embraced the proposal that you yourself 
be made a member of the Commission and chief engineer on 
the Isthmus. The substance of the plan of reorganization, 
as afterward embodied in the President's executive order of 
April 1, was cabled to you by me, and you cabled me your 
fullest approval of it and your thanks; for it included the 
appointment of yourself as a Commissioner, as you had 
solicited, and a member of the executive committee. . . . 
"Now, within twelve days after your arrival upon the 
Isthmus, you send me a cable which, read in the light of 
what you say to-day, signifies your practical acceptance of 
an offer of another position inconsistent with the perform- 
ance of your duties on the Isthmus. I am astonished that 
you should be so disregardful of the splendid opportunities 
of the position which would have made you famous the world 
over by the honorable performance of your duties of chief 
engineer. For mere lucre you change your position over 
night, without thought of the embarrassing position in which 
you place your Government by this action, when the engi- 
neering forces on the Isthmus are left without a real head 
and your department is not perfected in organization, when 
the advisory board of engineers is to assemble under call of the 
President within two months, and when I am departing for 
the Philippines on public duty. I consider that by every 
principle of honor and duty you were bound to treat the 
subject differently. You have permitted the President and 
all of us to proceed in full confidence that you would perform 
the functions of chief engineer, and now in an hour you drop 


your great duties and throw them back upon us as if it were 
a matter of no consequence, and all this for your personal 
advantage solely. . . . 

"Under the circumstances, Mr. Wallace, and with great 
personal pain and disappointment, I am bound to say that 
I consider the public interests require that you tender your 
resignation at this moment and turn over the records of 
your office to the chairman of the Commission." 

A few days later, Mr. Wallace gave a statement to the 
press which, while not satisfactorily explaining his attitude, 
denied that "mere lucre" had been the sole cause of his 

"The primary causes/' he said, "which led me to tender 
my resignation as chief engineer of the Isthmian Canal 
Commission were underlying and fundamental, and I must 
emphatically resent the charge that my motive in leaving 
the work was a financial one. A careful consideration of the 
entire subject had brought me to the decision that I should 
disconnect myself with the work at the earliest possible date 
that it could be done without embarrassment to the admin- 
istration or injury to the work. . . . My final decision 
was arrived at as the result of the six days' uninterrupted 
thought which I was able to give the subject in all its bear- 
ings during my voyage from New York to Colon, in May. 
Furthermore, I had pledged myself to my family to give the 
matter of my resignation as chief engineer, or of any position 
which would require my continuous residence on the Isthmus, 
serious consideration. 

"It was at this psychological moment that I received a 
cable message from New York offering me a business oppor- 
tunity which I was bound to consider. I, therefore, imme- 
diately cabled the Secretary of War requesting a conference, 
and arrived in New York for that purpose on Thursday, 
June 22. 


"On arriving at the Manhattan on Sunday, I was met by 
Mr. Cromwell, who ushered me into the Secretary's private 
apartment, accompanied by my son. Assuming that arrange- 
ments had been made for a strictly private interview, my 
son withdrew, expecting Mr. Cromwell to do the same. 
However, the Secretary, in a rather peremptory manner, 
directed Mr. Cromwell to remain. This action, of course, 
caused irritation and apprehension on my part that the 
interview would be unpleasant and unsatisfactory, and the 
irritation under which the Secretary was evidently laboring 
had a tendency to prevent that calm and dignified considera- 
tion of the question in all its bearings which should have 
been given it. 

"If the Secretary understood me to say that I had accepted 
a position in New York, he labored under a misapprehension. 
I did state to him that I desired to accept one, but under 
such circumstances and conditions and at such time as would 
cause the least embarrassment to the administration and 
the least injury to the work, and that I was even willing to 
go to the extent of remaining for an indefinite time on the 
Commission, should he desire my counsel and advice in 
arranging for the change, assisting in preparing plans for 
submission to the advisory board of engineers in September, 
or hi the further consideration of the question by the admin- 
istration or Congress during its next session. 

"Much to my surprise he indignantly spurned my sugges- 
tion and took the position that I was compelled under what 
he called my contract to remain in charge of the Isthmian 
canal, regardless of circumstances or conditions, until the 
completion of the work, and spoke in such a manner as to 
outrage my feeling to such an extent that further discussion 
of the reasons for my action was out of the question. 

"I did not seek the position of chief engineer of the Isth- 
mian Canal Commission, and, considering my salary as 


general manager of the Illinois Central Railroad Company 
and my other sources of earnings, my financial condition was 
not improved by my acceptance of the position, and it was 
with the greatest reluctance that I did so. 

" While it was my own expectation that I should continue 
my connection with the work, it did not occur to me that I 
was not free to withdraw if justice to myself and my family 
and to my reputation as an engineer required me to do so. 
It was not only my right, but my duty, to give the matter 
most careful consideration in all its bearings, considering 
not only the general situation as it affected the work, but 
my family, personal and business relations, and all the 
various factors entering into the problem, and I could not 
concede the right to the Secretary of War or any one to 
dictate my decision. The only debatable questions were 
the details as to putting my decision into effect, and, while 
I stated to the Secretary what my desires were, I told him 
that I was perfectly willing to conform to his wishes as far 
as possible as to the time and manner of my withdrawal. 

"I have made no criticism of personnel or individuals, 
but do believe that the obstacles due to the government 
methods required by existing laws are so serious that they 
will have to be eliminated if the American people are to 
see the Panama Canal constructed in a reasonable time and 
at a moderate cost." 

In the course of the next year Mr. Wallace was called as 
a witness before a congressional investigation committee and, 
in reply to a question as to the cause of his resignation, said : 

"My reason was, that I was made jointly responsible with 
Mr. Shonts and Mr. Magoon for work on the canal, while 
Mr. Shonts had a verbal agreement with the President that 
he should have a free rein in the management of all matters. 
I felt Mr. Shonts was not as well qualified as I was either as 
a business man or an administrator, and he was not an 


engineer. ... I thought it better to sacrifice my am- 
bitions regarding this work, which was to be the crowning 
event of my life, than remain to be humiliated, forced to 
disobey orders, or create friction." 

That there was something more back of this incident than 
either Mr. Wallace or the administration ever explained is 
generally believed. 

John F. Stevens was appointed chief engineer in his place. 

But before leaving Mr. Wallace's administration it is worth 
while to notice that he had never had a free rein. First of 
all he had been seriously hampered by the red-tape of the 
first Commission, and secondly he had been forced by public 
opinion to "make the dirt fly." Both of these limitations 
had interfered with the organization of the labor force, 
the securing of equipment and the development of sanitary 
work. Stevens began under much more favorable circum- 
stances. The preliminary work of exploring the job had been 
finished; the engineering problems had also been cleared of 
the jungle of uncertainty. The data was all in. Also the 
new Commission, with all power in the hands of the executive 
committee, was a very much more workable proposition 
than the old one. 

Stevens was one of the best " construction" men this 
country has ever produced. He knew railroading intimately 
and above all he had a genius for organizing an esprit de corps. 
Wallace seems to have been more lacking in this than in 
anything else. The force, especially the higher salaried 
white men, were in a very unsatisfactory psychological con- 
dition. Men had been changed from one job to another, 
elevated or degraded without any visible reason. 

Stevens had that peculiar ability to create confidence. 
He was the sort of boss the men on the job adore. In overalls 
and high boots he was somewhere on "the line" all the time. 
He could get work out of his men. One story they tell is 


typical of his dealings with his subordinates. He had sent 
an order to a carpenter to build some shops near Gorgona. 
The man sent back a letter to headquarters saying that 
there was a pile of old French equipment on the proposed 
site and asking how he should dispose of it. Stevens wrote 
on the bottom of the letter: 

"Wait till I have a free Sunday and I'll come down and 
move it for you." 

He was patient with the man who made a blunder, but 
exceedingly caustic to the man who did nothing. The men 
began to stop wondering if the canal could be built. 

In Jackson Smith, who was afterwards made a member of 
the Commission, Stevens found a very able assistant in the 
work of recruiting a labor force and organizing the Subsist- 
ence Department. 

Stevens gave his especial attention and this was his 
greatest contribution to the problem of transportation. 
He stopped the experimental excavation and concentrated 
all efforts in laying the foundations for the work. Under 
his administration shops and docks were built, housing 
arranged and sanitation put on a basis of high efficiency. 
But above all he took hold of the railroad. The old P. R. R. 
was practically scrapped, heavy rails and new rolling stock 
which Mr. Wallace had ordered were installed, and the 
organization made a model of " efficiency." 

While Stevens was chief engineer, the board of consulting 
engineers met. Five of the members were appointed by 
European governments at the request of President Roose- 
velt; Eugen Tincauzer, chief engineer of Kiel Canal, German; 
Eduoard Quellennec, of the Suez Canal, French; J. W. 
Welcker, director of the State Waterways of Holland; 
Adolph Gue"rard, of the French "Ponts et Chausse*es" and 
Henry W. Hunter, chief engineer of the Manchester Ship 
Canal, English. To this board, Mr. Roosevelt also ap- 


pointed eight eminent American engineers, making in all 

The question they were to study and report upon was the 
relative advantages of a sea-level or lock canal. The result 
of their deliberations was to prove conclusively that a great 
deal could be said on each side. They brought in two reports; 
a majority of eight, including all the foreigners, believed a 
sea-level canal to be preferable, while five American engi- 
neers reported in favor of a lock canal with a summit level 
of eighty-five feet above the sea. The two groups agreed 
that to dig to sea-level would take about twice as long and 
cost almost twice as much as the construction of a lock canal. 
But the majority felt that the advantages of the former plan 
were great enough to offset the outlay in time and money. 
To these reports were added one by the chief engineer, Mr. 
Stevens, which was strongly in favor of locks. 

"The sum of my conclusions is," he wrote, "that, all 
things considered, the lock or high-level canal is pre- 
ferable to the sea-level type, so called, for the following 
reasons : 

"It will provide as safe and a quicker passage for ships, 
and, therefore, will be of greater capacity. 

"It will provide, beyond question, the best solution of the 
vital problem of how safely to care for the flood waters of 
the Chagres and other streams. 

"Provision is made for enlarging its capacity to almost 
any extent at very much less expense of time and money 
than can be provided for by any sea-level plan. 

"Its cost of operation, maintenance, and fixed charges 
will be very much less than any sea-level canal. 

"The time and cost of its construction will be not one-half 
that of a canal of the sea-level type. 

"The element of time might become, in case of war, actual 
or threatened, one of such importance that, measured, not 


by years, but by months, or even days, the entire cost of the 
canal would seem trivial in comparison. 

"Finally, even at the same cost in time and money for 
each type, I would favor the adoption of the high-level 
lock-canal plan in preference to that of the proposed sea- 
level canal." 

These three documents were submitted to the regular 
Isthmian Canal Commission. And all but one of that body 
endorsed the lock project; Rear-Admiral Endicott alone 
stood out for the sea-level canal advocated by the majority 
of the consulting engineers. 

All these reports then went to the administration; Mr. 
Taft, the Secretary of War, and Mr. Roosevelt both took 
sides with those in favor of the lock proposition, and the 
matter was referred to Congress with the following message 
by the President on February 19, 1906: 

"It must be borne in mind that there is no question of 
building what has been picturesquely termed 'the Straits of 
Panama '; that is, a waterway through which the largest 
vessels could go with safety at uninterrupted high speed. 
Both the sea-level canal and the proposed lock-canal would 
be too narrow and shallow to be called with any truthful- 
ness a strait, or to have any of the properties of a wide, 
deep water strip. Both of them would be canals, pure and 
simple. Each type has certain disadvantages and certain 
advantages. But, in my judgment, the disadvantages are 
fewer and the advantages very much greater in the case of 
a lock canal substantially as proposed in the papers forwarded 
herewith; and a careful study of the reports seems to establish 
a strong probability that the following are the facts: The 
sea-level canal would be slightly less exposed to damage in 
the event of war; the running expenses, apart from the heavy 
cost of interest on the amount employed to build it, would 
be less; and for small ships the time of transit would prob- 


ably be less. On the other hand, the lock canal, at a level 
of eighty feet or thereabouts, would not cost much more 
than half as much to build, and could be built in about half 
the time, while there would be very much less risk connected 
with building it, and for large ships the transit would be 
quicker; while, taking into account the interest on the 
amount saved in building, the actual cost of maintenance 
would be less. After being built, it would be easier to 
enlarge the lock canal than the sea-level canal. 

"The law now on our statute books seems to contemplate 
a lock canal. In my judgment a lock canal, as herein recom- 
mended, is advisable. If the Congress directs that a sea- 
level canal be constructed, its direction will, of course, be 
carried out. Otherwise, the canal will be built on sub- 
stantially the plan for a lock canal outlined in the accom- 
panying papers, such changes being made, of course, as may 
be found actually necessary." 

In June Congress voted for locks and the much-discussed 
question was settled. 

As very often happens in this haphazard world of ours, 
our vision is greatly cleared after the heat of controversy 
has died down; after the time when clear vision is needed 
our eyes are opened. So many new considerations have 
come up since this matter was under discussion that it is 
probable that if the same board were to meet again they 
would be almost unanimously in favor of the plans actually 

It was decided later to increase the size of the canal, to 
accommodate larger ships. To make excavations for these 
new dimensions down to sea-level would increase the cost 
and time, not twice, but four or five times. Actual experience 
has shown that the estimates of "costs" by the board of 
consulting engineers were inaccurate. Some of the work 
we are doing cheaper than they thought possible. Some is 


costing more. It is not worth while for a layman to express 
an opinion on so technical a problem. But the fact is striking 
that, while in 1906 expert opinion seemed to be pretty 
evenly divided on the subject, to-day one hears very few 
reputable engineers talking of a sea-level canal. In a time 
when the disagreement of the doctors made it impossible 
to reach a rational assurance of which solution was the 
better, we seem to have stumbled into the wiser course. 

In giving his original instructions to the first Commission 
in 1904, Mr. Roosevelt called especial attention to the need 
of effective sanitation. "You will," he said, "take measures 
to secure the best medical experts for this purpose whom you 
can obtain." In choosing Colonel Gorgas as chief sanitary 
officer, the Commission observed the letter of these instruc- 
tions. But unfortunately they did not give him either the 
authority or the means to carry out his work. 

On January 1, 1904, there were no cases of yellow fever, 
smallpox or the plague on the Isthmus. Two cases of yellow 
fever developed on the 15th, and other scattering cases 
followed. On July 1, 1904, the American sanitary officers 
arrived on the Zone. From that date until December 20th 
ten persons were stricken with yellow fever, of whom only 
two died. In other words, there was no serious epidemic 
for six months after assuming control. Our doctors knew 
just what ought to be done. They had had a successful 
a marvellously successful experience in cleaning up Havana. 
I have already noticed how their requisitions were held up 
by the Commission. They were not given the chance to do 
their work. And week by week the number of yellow fever 
cases increased and with it demoralization. 

No one who has not been through an epidemic can realize 
the difficulty of keeping up courage. It is so illogical, so 
insidious and uncertain. And the veil of mystery which 
surrounds the reasons for which it picks its victims is so 


deep. In the first week of an epidemic everyone has a 
theory of who is marked out. Once in a plague-ridden town 
I met a confident, smiling man, who laughed at the danger. 
It was only heavy drinkers, he said, who had any reason to 
be afraid. The next day I found him white-faced and hag- 
gard trying to bribe an official to let him leave the place. 
A friend whom he knew to be a total abstainer had died. 
It is the uncertainty of it that is fearful. 

Many of the Americans resigned and went home. Others 
tried to laugh it off. Some fools made a point of sneering 
at the mosquito theory, and even tore holes in the few wire 
screens the Commission had allowed the sanitary corps to 
put up. 

It was at this juncture that Mr. Roosevelt forced the first 
Commission to resign and appointed their successors. 
Magoon, the new Governor of the Canal Zone, arrived in 
May, 1905. He realized at once how desperate the situation 
threatened to become. He saw that the sanitary work was 
more important than anything else. And he gave Colonel 
Gorgas the much needed, much delayed support which was 
imperative. He cabled at once to Washington for the 
necessary supplies. And, so much had the organization of 
the Commission been improved, within forty-eight hours 
after he had sent his dispatches, the materials were on their 
way. The sanitary department was allowed to organize 
adequate inspection squads. Work was pushed on the sewer- 
age work and water supply. A wholesale fumigation was 
made of Panama and Colon. 

When Magoon arrived in May, 1905, there were thirty- 
eight yellow fever cases in the hospital, "and more were 
expected in June." The evil effects of the earlier neglect 
of sanitation could not be avoided. In June there were 
sixty-two cases. But Magoon and Gorgas had by their 
activity restored confidence and the number of desertions 


fell off. In July, the yellow fever dropped to forty-two. 
In August there were only twenty-seven sick. In September 
the epidemic ended with only six cases, the last of which 
occurred on the 29th. This was the end of yellow fever in 
the Canal Zone. I believe one case has developed in the six 
years which have passed since that date. Possibly there 
have been two or three more. But one is probably in less 
danger from this old scourge in Panama and Colon than in 
any tropical city which has not been subjected to as rigorous 

The annual death rate from all diseases had been reduced 
to less than 25 per 1,000. Cairo and Madras have a death 
rate as high as 38 per 1,000. Bombay is the highest, some 
years reaching 55. Of the northern cities, Moscow in 1904 
had 27.6 deaths per 1,000, Trieste 25.8, St. Petersburg 23.7, 
Breslau 23.5, Dublin 23.3, Liverpool and New York 22.6, 
Venice 22.2, New Orleans 21.5. As these are all industrial 
cities, it is evident that the sanitary officers had made of 
the Canal Zone a place where work could go on uninter- 
rupted by disease. 

The point had now been reached where the completion of 
the canal was assured. The engineers under the leadership 
of Mr. Stevens had not been behind the doctors in success- 
fully solving their problems. However, there was to be 
one more change in the administration. 

The reasons which led to Mr. Stevens's resignation are 
as obscure as was the case when Mr. Wallace withdrew. 

The story which is generally believed on the Isthmus is 
to this effect. While the worst of the evils of red-tapism 
had been done away with, still Mr. Stevens, who had been 
trained in private railroading, found himself considerably 
constrained by the constant necessity of considering the 
political exigencies of the situation. A great many people 
considered that they had a right to investigate his actions. 


Of course they did have such a right as it was a public under- 
taking; but Mr. Stevens was not used to the ordeal. In 
order to get the necessary appropriations from Congress a 
certain amount of political tact was necessary. Mr. Stevens 
lacked it. A hundred and one petty limitations and restric- 
tions irritated him. Every time he saw Mr. Roosevelt he 
let off steam, fussing and fuming till he felt better and then 
went back to the job with redoubled vigor. 

At one time he did not have such an opportunity for several 
months, and the steam pressure grew pretty tense. Some 
particularly annoying piece of officialism made him suddenly 
mad, and he called his stenographer and dictated a five- or 
six-page letter to Mr. Roosevelt in which he expressed his 
strong feelings in a much more informal style than is gener- 
ally used in official correspondence. 

Jackson Smith, one of the Commissioners, who was on 
very friendly terms with Stevens, came into his office shortly 
afterwards and found him in the best of spirits. When the 
business in hand was completed he said jovially : 

"Read this. I've just been easing my mind to T. R. It's 
a hot one isn't it? " And he handed over the carbon copy 
of his letter. His visitor read it with great seriousness. 

"Mr. Stevens," he said, "that is the same as a resigna- 

And Stevens laughed. 

"Why, I've said that kind of thing to the Colonel a dozen 
times. He knows I don't mean to quit this job." 

But about three hours after the letter reached Washington 
Mr. Stevens received a cablegram: "Your resignation ac- 

Mr. Stevens has stated in a personal letter that this story 
is incorrect. He did not, however, give an alternate ex- 
planation, beyond saying that he resigned voluntarily. 

Jackson Smith, who started the story I have given, is now 


dead. But there are many men still on the Isthmus who 
claim to have heard it direct from him. It has doubtless 
been somewhat distorted in the telling and retelling before 
it reached me. I give it with all reservations. It is of in- 
terest because the men on the job who knew Stevens believe 
that he never meant to resign, and that this story is sub- 
stantially correct. 

The administration version is that Mr. Stevens could not 
work with it harmoniously, that he made demands, impos- 
sible to be granted, under threat of resignation, and that 
he forced them to seek elsewhere for a man to complete the 

There are a great many people on the canal work to-day 
who regret that Stevens left. He certainly was a great en- 
gineer and a genius in inspiring his men to full effort. How- 
ever, the work which he accomplished stands there as his 
monument. Colonel Goethals, his successor, is the first to 
give him credit. 

The work was on a "going basis." What was needed at 
this time was above all things stability in its executive head. 
Mr. Roosevelt was able to get this, combined with a very 
high ability, in the engineering corps of the army. And 
this was the greatest consideration the army officers 
would not resign. 



"TELL me something about Colonel Goethals." 

My friend was a keen observer who had already given me 
much information about the life and work on the Canal Zone. 

" You want a line on the old man ? " he said after a mo- 
ment's consideration. " Well, the most distinctive picture of 
him I have is this. I used to live at Culebra. One night I 
was sitting out on the porch of my quarters, smoking. There 
were only a few lights here and there in the Administration 
Building. One by one they went out, all except that in the 
old man's office. It was getting on toward ten when his 
window went dark. It was the dry season. A full moon, 
as big as a dining-room table, was hanging down about a foot 
and a half above the flagstaff a gorgeous night. The old 
man came out and walked across the grass to his house. 
He didn't stop to look up at the moon; he just pegged along, 
his head a little forward, still thinking. And he hadn't been 
in his own house ten minutes before all the lights were out 
there. He'd turned in, getting ready to catch that early 
train. The only time the Colonel isn't working is from 10 
P.M. to 6 A.M., when he's asleep." 

That seems to be the thing which impresses our men down 
here most of all about the Boss. He is always on the Job. 

Just what is the Job? 

Strictly speaking, it is administrative, rather than con- 
structive, engineering. The type of the Canal was decided 
upon before the present Commission was installed. They 



have had but few changes of importance to make : widening 
the channel in the Cut, increasing the size of the locks, and 
the moving of the Pacific locks inland, beyond the range 
of a hostile fleet. Their work had been the perfecting of 
details and the execution of what had been already deter- 

Wallace was our first "Boss of the Job." His contribution 
was the creative imagination to foresee the stupendous pro- 
portions of the undertaking. Sent down to a fever-ridden 
tropical jungle, so dense that one could not penetrate it 
without constant use of a machete, he saw the thing in the 
large. He signed requisitions for ninety-ton steam-shovels 
by wholesale; ordered a modern railway; asked for an 
equipment on such a scale as had never been dreamed of. 
The first Commission was lacking in similar foresight. One 
of the causes for Wallace's sudden resignation was the fact 
that his requisitions were ignored. He could not get the 
tools fie needed tools the necessity of which has since 
been realized, and which are now in operation. 

Stevens was our next Boss. His is the honor of having 
recruited and organized the labor force. He established the 
whole enterprise on a going basis. The engineers now on the 
Job speak with especial respect of the masterly way in which 
he solved the transportation problem, for digging the Cut 
requires not only the breaking up of the mountain barrier, 
but also the removing of it. And it was during his adminis- 
tration that, after much arguing and infinite study, the type 
of the Canal was finally decided upon. 

But Stevens, like Wallace, was too little of a politician to 
swing the Washington end of the Job. Different people give 
different reasons as to why he at last threw it up. Probably, 
as in Wallace's case, friction with his superiors at Washington 
was one of the reasons. At all events, he made way for 
the present Commission. Most of them are army engineers, 


who through long government service understand how to take 
orders and at the same time to get what they need for their 

Although the Job is to-day one which is primarily ad- 
ministrative, the carrying out of the work already planned, 
the maintaining of an organization already installed, it is 
none the less an affair which calls for a man of more than 
ordinary stature. 

Colonel George Washington Goethals, the Chief Engineer 
and Chairman of the Commission, is now at the head of this 
great National Job of ours. A visitor to the Isthmus who 
has not included "the Colonel" among the sights has missed 
more than half that there is to see down here. 

The Administration Building is a barnlike, corrugated-iron- 
roofed structure on the top of Culebra Hill. Before en- 
tering it you get the impression of a noteworthy lack of fuss 
and feathers. Through a broad corridor, hung with maps 
and blue prints of the work, you reach the office, where the 
Chairman's private secretary and chief clerk reign over a 
vast filing system. You will travel far before you see a more 
smoothly running office. Does the Colonel want a copy of 
the letter to the Spanish Government about contract laborers? 
Does he want to look over the specifications in the contract 
for the new unloading cranes for the Balboa dock, or By-law 
37 of the International Brotherhood of Railroad Engineers, 
or the excavation record of steam-shovel 333? Or is it 
the personal file of employee No. 33,333 the date of his 
birth, the color of his hair, how many times he has been 
docked for sleeping overtime, or the cause of his last quarrel 
with his wife? A push-button starts an electric buzz, and 
inside of two minutes the desired document is on his desk. 

There are few men at the head of as large an undertaking 
who are so easy of access. If you have to wait a few minutes, 
you can find plenty to hold your interest. The walls are 


covered with maps and blue prints. This is true of every 
wall in the Canal Zone. There may be private homes along 
the line where the rooms are decorated with familiar photo- 
graphs of the Venus de Milo and the Coliseum; but every 
official wall is plastered with blue prints. 

But you will not have to wait long before you are ushered 
into the Throne Room more maps and blue prints and 
you are face to face with the most absolute autocrat in the 

Many people have described Colonel Goethals as having 
a boyish face; but they must have seen him with his hat 
on, for his hair is white. If, as they say, his face looks 
twenty and his hair sixty, I could not see it, for his eyes 
which dominate look forty. He is broad-shouldered and 
erect. He carries his head the way they did at West Point 
before it became fashionable for the cadets to wear stays. 
Above everything, he looks alert and "fit." Although he 
does not spare himself, he has not lost a day from malaria. 

Of course the first thing you do will be to hand him your 
perfectly useless "letter from my Congressman." Useless, 
because even if you have no letter he will show you every 
courtesy he can without interfering with the Job; and he 
will not interfere with the Job even if you bring letters from 
all the Congressmen. 

Like every man who accomplishes an immense amount of 
work, he is a great believer in routine. 

Six mornings a week he is "out on the line," and he takes 
the early train. He took me along on one of these inspection 
trips. It was before seven when we reached Pedro Miguel, 
and we walked back through the Cut to Empire. It was 
four hours of bitter hard tramping, for the Colonel kept to 
no beaten track. Whatever interested him he wished to see 
at close range. So it was something of a luxury to have a 
few minutes of "good walking" on railway ties. And 


dodging the incessant rush of dirt-trains and running for 
shelter when the whistle warns that the dynamite squad is 
on the point of shooting a "dobe" charge require no small 
expenditure of energy. I have often walked through the 
Cut, but never before nor since at the clip the Colonel sets. 
They say that a feeling of fatigue is one of the first symptoms 
of the Chagres fever. As we climbed out of the Cut at 
Empire it is an interminably long flight of stairs, and the 
sun gets hot in the tropics by eleven I was sure I was in for a 
severe attack. The Colonel said blithely, "The only way 
to keep your health in this climate is to take a little exercise 
every morning." Doubtless it is true, but I had rather die 
quickly than keep alive at that rate. 

His afternoons go in routine desk work, signing papers, 
approving reports, and so forth. It is part of his system 
that he discourages oral reports. Everything comes to him 
on paper. If he wants to talk with any of his subordinates, 
he generally does it during his morning trips on the spot. 
Perhaps the phrase he uses most frequently is, "Write it 

The afternoon office work is much interrupted by callers. 
The stream of tourists grows steadily, and the Colonel real- 
izes that it is we, the people of the United States, who are 
doing this Canal Job. Any one of us who is sufficiently 
interested to come down and look it over is welcome. 

"Whenever I have anything to study out, work which 
requires uninterrupted attention," he said, "I go back to the 
office at night." This happens generally three or four, and 
often seven, nights a week. 

The most remarkable part of Colonel Goethals's routine is 
his Sunday Court of Low, Middle, and High Justice. Even 
as the Caliphs of Bagdad sat in the city gate to hear the 
plaints of their people, so, in his very modern setting prin- 
cipally maps and blue prints the Colonel holds session every 


Sunday morning One of the Isthmian bards has reduced the 
matter to verse, which, if somewhat weak in prosody, is 
strong in local color: 


If you have any cause to kick, or feel disposed to howl, 

If things ain't running just to suit, and there's a chance to growl, 

If you have any ax to grind or graft to shuffle through, 

Just put it up to Colonel G. like all the others do. 

See Colonel Goethals, tell Colonel Goethals, 
It's the only right and proper thing to do. 
Just write a letter, or, even better, 
Arrange a little Sunday interview. 

Casey is an engineer and treated awful bad, 
Eight minutes overtime they worked the poor defenseless lad, 
So Casey sees the Colonel, with tears in his eyes, and says: 
"I cannot stand for this no more without lay-over days." 

"Dear sir, the commissary here," writes Mrs. Percy Jones, 
"Is charging me for porterhouse which ain't no more than bones, 
And, I assure you, Colonel, that the pork chops what they sell 
Is rotten. I enclose herewith a sample, just to smell." 

Mrs. Hobbs and Mrs. Dobbs are neighbors in a flat, 
And Mrs. Hobbs calls Mrs. Dobbs a dirty this and that. 
Then Mrs. Dobbs reciprocates, and maybe both are right, 
But in the end the Colonel has to arbitrate the fight. 

Don't hesitate to state your case, the boss will hear you through; 
It's true he's sometimes busy, and has other things to do, 
But come on Sunday morning, and line up with the rest, 
You'll maybe feel some better with that grievance off your chest. 

See Colonel Goethals, tell Colonel Goethals, 
It's the only right and proper thing to do. 
Just write a letter, or, even better, 
Arrange a little Sunday interview. 

I had the good fortune to be admitted one Sunday morning 
to the audience chamber. 


The first callers were a negro couple from Jamaica. They 
had a difference of opinion as to the ownership of thirty-five 
dollars which the wife had earned by washing. Colonel 
Goethals listened gravely until the fact was established that 
she had earned it, then ordered the man to return it. He 
started to protest something about a husband's property 
rights under the English law. "All right/' the Colonel 
said, decisively. "Say the word, and I'll deport you. You 
can get all the English law you want in Jamaica." The 
husband decided to pay and stay. 

Then came a Spanish laborer who had been maimed in an 
accident. The Colonel called in his chief clerk and told him 
to help the unfortunate man prepare his claim. " See that the 
papers are drawn correctly and have them pushed through." 

A man came in who had just been thrown out of the 
service for brutality to the men under him. This action 
was the result of an investigation before a special committee. 
The man sought reinstatement. The Colonel read over the 
papers in the case, and when he spoke his language was 
vigorous: "If you have any new evidence, I will instruct the 
committee to reopen your case. But as long as this report 
stands against you, you will get no mercy from this office. 
If the men had broken your head with a crowbar, I would 
have stood for them. We don't need slave-drivers on this 

Then a committee from the Machinists' Union wanted an 
interpretation on some new shop rules. A nurse wanted a 
longer vacation than the regulations allow. A man and his 
wife were dissatisfied with their quarters. A supervisor 
of steam-shovels who had two or three "high records for 
monthly excavations" to his credit came in to ask advice 
about applying for another job under the Panama Govern- 
ment. The end of the Canal work is approaching, and the 
far-sighted men are beginning to look into the future. "Of 


course I can't advise you/' the Colonel said. "You know 
I would hate to see you go. But, if you decide that it is wise, 
come in and see me. I may be able to give you some intro- 
ductions which will help you." (And, as every one knows 
that a letter of introduction from the Chairman of the Com- 
mission would look like an order to the Panama Government, 
there is another man who will want to vote for Goethals for 
President in 1916!) Then a man came in to see if he could 
get some informal inside information on a contract which 
is soon to be let. His exit was hurried. 

An American negro introduced some humor. He was 
convinced that his services were of more value than his 
foreman felt they were. The Colonel preferred to accept the 
foreman's judgment in the matter. The dissatisfied one 
pompously announced that he was the best blacksmith's 
helper on the Isthmus and the he intended to appeal from 
this decision. The Colonel's eyes twinkled. "To whom are 
you going to appeal?" he asked. For the fact is that the 
verdicts rendered in these summary Sunday sessions will not 
be revised before the Day of Judgment. 

The procession kept up till noon pathos, patience-trying 
foolishness, occasional humor. "Once in a while," the 
Colonel said, "something turns up which is really important 
for me to know. And, anyway, they feel better after they 
have seen me, even if I cannot help them. They feel that 
they got a fair chance to state their troubles. They are less 
likely to be breeding discontent in the quarters. But it is 
a strain." 

One sees the Colonel at his best in these Sunday morning 
hours. You see the immensely varied nature of the things 
and issues which are his concern. Engineering in the tech- 
nical sense seems almost the least of them. There is the great 
human problem of keeping this working force in good order, 
of caring for the welfare and contentment of this community 


of exiles exiled to what was once the most unhealthy jungle 
in the world. And he sits there, week after week, the paternal 
authority to which all may come with their unofficial troubles. 
English, French, American negroes, Spanish and Italian 
peasants, coolies from India, with all the complications which 
come from their varied languages and customs Mrs. Blank, 
whose husband drinks too much; diamond-drill operator 
No. 10, who has an abscess of the liver and wants a word of 
encouragement before he goes to Ancon Hospital for the 
operation. It is as remarkable a sight as I have ever seen 
to watch him at it. He is a good listener until he is quite 
sure he has got to the nubbin of the matter, and then, like a 
flash, the decision is made and given. And I think there are 
very few indeed who go away thinking that they have been 
denied justice. But, as he said, it must be a strain. 

This routine of Colonel Goethals is followed week by week, 
year after year. It is broken only by occasional trips to 
Washington. And every one knows that the political end of 
the Job is more wearing than the regular grind. He has not 
had a real vacation since he took up this Job of ours. 

For a journalist Colonel Goethals has one formidable fault: 
it is impossible to get him to talk about himself or his achieve- 
ments. He will discuss the Job willingly with any one. He 
even had the optimism to try to make me understand the 
geological formation of Contractor's Hill. But the skill 
with which he turns the conversation away from himself 
excites admiration which is only equaled by vexation. 

"Who's Who" makes the following statements about him. 
Whether or not they are true I do not know although I 
tried to find out: 

Goethals, George Washington, army officer; born Brooklyn, June 
29, 1858; grad. U. S. Military Academy, 1880; 2nd lieut. engineers, 
June 12, 1880; 1st lieut. engineers, June 15, 1882; capt. Dec. 14, 1891, 
lieut. col. and chief of engineers, volunteer army, May 9, 1898; hon. 


discharged from vol. service, Dec. 31, 1898; major engineer corps, Feb. 
7, 1900; grad. Army War College, 1905; lieut. col. engineers, 1907; 
instructor in civil and military engineering U. S. Military Academy 
several years until 1888; in charge of Mussel Shoals Canal construction, 
on Tennessee River; chief engineer during Spanish- American War; 
member of the board of fortifications (coast and harbor defense) ; chief 
engineer Panama Canal since Feb. 26, 1907. Address: Ancon, Canal 
Zone, Panama. 

The only record I can find of his ever having talked of 
himself is in the report of the Congressional Committee which 
investigated the affairs of the Commission in 1909. Mr. 
Stevens asked: "What has been your professional and official 
experience in this line of work?" Under this compulsion, 
Colonel Goethals summed up the thirty years of Government 
service since his graduation in exactly 167 words! 

The fact of his life which has the greatest interpretative 
value is that he is an army engineer. In other words, he is a 
National product. He graduated from one of our schools; he 
stood at the head of his class; and since his graduation he 
has always been employed in Government service. 

His military training has accustomed him to act under or- 
ders a valuable asset in such a work. Mr. Roosevelt, while 
President, came to the conclusion that the Canal could not 
be built by civilian engineers men trained in private enter- 
prise. There was no way to make them stick to the Job. 
Successful construction men can always command high 
salaries. And men like Wallace and Stevens, who are used 
to being their own masters, find the Government service, 
with its inevitable red tape, irksome. It is impossible to 
establish a permanent working force if the Boss is likely to 
throw up the Job any minute. Under such circumstances 
no man feels sure of his position. For the spoils system, 
so much decried in politics, is the ordinary practice in rail- 
roading and construction work. What was needed was 
not only engineering genius, but executive stability. Mr. 


Roosevelt appointed a Commission of army officers, men who 
would stay on the Job till they were ordered home. 

This new Commission, installed April 1, 1907, did not 
run very smoothly at first. It requires some time for a seven- 
headed executive to shake down to an equilibrium of power. 
Several of the Commissioners seemed to think that most, if 
not all, of the responsibility rested on their own shoulders. 
They felt much as the other two members of the French 
First Consulate did before they became entirely acquainted 
with the character of Napoleon. The struggle was tense 
while it lasted. But now that the dust has settled, almost 
every one on the Zone agrees that the best man won. 

In January, 1908, Colonel Goethals persuaded the ad- 
ministration at Washington to issue an executive order 
which, whatever it may seem to say, gave him absolute 
control. The other six Commissioners are subordinates, 
most of them cordial, all of them docile. Certainly modern 
times have never seen one-man rule pushed to such an ex- 
treme. The Colonel, with his immense capacity for work 
and the restricted area of his domain about four hundred 
square miles succeeds in the role of autocrat after a fashion 
which must cause no little envy to Nicholas II. 

How free-born American citizens accept this condition of 
things is at first a matter of wonder. One is used to thinking 
that if we were deprived of jury trials and the right to vote, 
we would begin to shoot. But down here the only right 
which has not been alienated is the right to get out. There 
are two or three steamers home a week. Then of course 
every one looks on this condition as temporary and necessi- 
tated by the unusual circumstances of the Job. 

But with all these things which make for submission, such 
an absolutism would not be endured except for the almost uni- 
versal feeling that Colonel Goethals is just. He has made 
enemies, of course, and here and there I have heard men 


declaiming that they had not been treated fairly, and that 
they were "going back to the States to live under the Con- 
stitution." But the men down here who take an intense 
interest in the work, whose imaginations have been caught 
by the immensity of the Job the real men would protest 
in a body at any talk of removing Goethals. 

The criticism about him which I hear oftenest is that he 
works too hard. It is pretty generally believed that he 
could spare himself much of the strain if he would delegate 
more of his authority. 

There is another phase of Colonel Goethals's adminis- 
tration which to me is the most impressive of all. It is the 
elimination of graft. I doubt if this old world has ever seen 
so clean a job as this Canal of ours. 

I do not mean that the Colonel has been able to eliminate 
human nature. A foreman here and there will extort a 
bribe from a laborer who wants a job. No doubt some 
minor officials sometimes send messengers employed by the 
Commission on private errands. There is a man breaking 
stone in the chain-gang now who tried to get the best of the 
system of bookkeeping in the commissary stores. A gentle- 
man of the old school a Colonel of the G. A. R. was found 
to be shaking down some West Indian negro laborers for 
petty graft; he was retired to private life. But there is no 
big graft. 

When I was down here two years ago, I looked into this 
pretty carefully. I had had some experience in tracing the 
hidden threads which lead into the political muck-heap at 
home. I could find none here on the Canal Zone. But back 
in the States I found almost every one incredulous when I 
said that this vast Government job was being done on the 
square. Some railway men explained to me at length how 
it was impossible to run a big construction job private as 
well as public without the purchasing agents getting sud- 


denly rich. They initiated me into a whole new technique 
of the gentle art of grafting explained industrial as dis- 
tinct from political "easy money." 

During this visit to the Zone I have given especial at- 
tention to this department. A few weeks ago four men dug 
a very elaborate tunnel under the vault of a large bank here 
in Panama City. It was a remarkable piece of engineering. 
They ventilated it with electric fans and had imported an 
expensive up-to-date oxygen-acetylene plant to cut through 
the steel. They were on the job about six months, and got 
away with less than $20,000. The general verdict is that it 
was not worth the trouble. By the time they have definitely 
escaped arrest if they ever do they will not have more 
than a couple of thousand dollars apiece to "blow in." But 
my advice to any one who wants to acquire gold which is not 
his is that he will get better returns from bank-robbing than 
from trying to in the slang of the profession "put any- 
thing over" on the purchasing department of the Com- 

This, I am glad to say, is not only my opinion. There have 
been many graft charges against the Commission, most of 
them as wild as the story that the Gatun Dam had fallen 
over. The more